I invited myself to an interesting 21st Century Maricopa Faculty Professional Development meeting on Friday morning last week. The meeting's focus was on the recommendations of the consulting firm that studied our community college district's business practices. In general their feedback was this: we need to streamline and standardize faculty professional development across the district. In doing so, we should be able to trim 207,000 dollars off our expenditures. This statement was extremely confusing to me for several reasons and I will list them below:
1. The consulting firm did not speak with any faculty professional developers from the meeting that I attended -- nor did they speak with any of the developers I know that weren't at the meeting. (do you see a major problem with that??)
2. In connection with the first concern, myself and several other colleagues (also faculty professional developers) pride ourselves in collaborating and sharing resources when delivering professional development events.
3. There is an assumption that standardizing and streamlining will save money without understanding some of the real barriers in place that make this impossible for our colleges.
4. Professional development (especially faculty professional development) is a unique area that cannot follow a cookie-cutter approach.
I will go into further detail on these concerns. My first concern is a "no-brainer". As an instructional designer, I understand the consulting model. You first need to interview ALL stakeholders in order to get a good picture of the problem and formulate an extensive needs assessment. Had they done that, they would have realized that a good majority of the Faculty Developers ARE collaborating in order to streamline FPD opportunities. Red flags raise when I hear people say "standardize," so I'm avoiding saying that we are trying to standardize any FPD opportunities. Each college and faculty member has unique needs. Standardizing an approach to FPD wouldn't be effective in meeting the needs. I also don't believe this would save us any money. Most of our FPD events are run on a shoestring budget. We have salaried employees that run events and we don't usually provide much of anything worth a monetary value. I'm confused how this consulting firm made the connection between monetary savings and streamlining and standardizing. Especially because we are already collaborating to share resources --speaker expenses and district-wide events. Is anyone else confused about what they mean in regard to streamlining and standardizing???
As for doing more streamlining and standardizing than we already do....it's important to understand that we can't completely wipe our slates clean of the various college cultures as well as the fact that our district spans about a 50 mile radius. There truly is no way to create vanilla events that will completely wipe out the need for "college-specific" professional development needs. I would argue that we've standardized our events as much as we can. With budget cuts, we have stretched our faculty and employees thin. We must provide learning opportunities in close proximity of their offices as well as specific to their particular job and college needs -- otherwise, we become irrelevant and unnecessary.
I'm probably taking this recommendation a bit too personally, perhaps it's not meant for me and what I do (???). I take my job very seriously and the colleagues that I work with do too. We have a 24/7 work ethic, we are constantly trying to meet the needs of faculty. We are extremely creative because we know it takes this creativity to come up with new ways to meet the ever-changing needs of classroom faculty. Our brains respond to innovation and creativity - if we trade that in for standardization, where will we be? My former k-12 mind shudders thinking about standardized tests -- what exactly do those tests measure? What is their value? I don't want any of my learning opportunities to be dismissed like many of these standardized tests. Let's not make incorrect assumptions. I do NOT believe that standardizing and streamlining faculty professional development opportunities will create monetary savings. I hope that we can find ways to save this money, but I'm not sure it's going to be in the way the consulting firm suggested. What do you think?
Monday, February 22, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I attended a conference at Scottsdale Community College last Friday (see the liveblogs below)-- Tech Tools '10. Wow! The keynote speaker really got my mind buzzing! She is Maria H. Andersen, math faculty at Muskegon Community College in Michigan. Check her out if you have time -- she is FASCINATING: http://teachingcollegemath.com/. She talked about community colleges and "what we do" for a living. She questioned the sustainability of training for re-careering and how the two year model may not be effective anymore. She used the example of the Newspaper industry and how it has been cut in half....or even more than half because the jobs just don't exist anymore. Soooo.....at the community colleges, are we training them for careers that will eventually go away? Yikes! She made a great point that we need to futuristically look at our higher education model. We need to create 'thinkers' -- not people to do jobs. Creating thinkers is more sustainable --right? She talked about restructuring curriculum so that we don't teach in silos. Instead of teaching Math, Reading, English & History, we teach things like Effective Presentations of Graphical material -- a hybrid of Math & Graphic Design OR Trend Analysis -- a hybrid of history, economics & math. See where I'm going here? The idea is to produce creative and innovative critical thinkers -- and they will never become obsolete! Your thoughts?
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I'm not sure why, but I have had several conversations lately about teaching grammar and how students no longer know how to write. I find it interesting that most people I speak with talk about how we don't teach grammar in schools anymore -- that young people weren't taught the rules that govern the written word. I reflect back on my youth and think that I really learned most of my "grammar" in my college grammar course (which, by the way, was the hardest class I took in college). I also know that I was taught grammar throughout my K-12 experience. I recall each teacher having a different "flavor" in which they presented the content. It took me until graduate school and beyond to really blossom as a writer. I wonder why it took me so long. Was it because I wasn't taught grammar properly? I doubt that. I truly think that writing development is a maturation process facilitated by life experiences. With that said....our young writers today are very different than our older experienced writers. With text messaging, internet, and Twitter, our writers are learning new contexts for which to write. I think this is exciting because our means for communication in the written form has expanded! Unfortunately we still have people who think that technology and text messaging are the end of the world. See this article: Students Failing because of Twitter, Texting. Our students will no longer be able to write or communicate properly because they write so often in a cryptic text message code. I just think it gives us more to draw from when we teach writing. If we know they text message and Tweet all the time, let's use it to get them writing more. Teach them about writing for different contexts -- isnt' that the essence of rhetoric? Knowing your audience? I would say these young students are going to be even smarter than us because they will learn to communicate in so many different ways!