Sunday, October 23, 2011

Personal Development Plan

(this is a required Walden University post. From the assignment: "Write your own personal development plan designed for you specifically and post it on your blog. Include the following components in your plan:
  • Four types of development (from this week’s Learning Resources) that you will advocate for your employer to provide you and/or that you will pursue on your own (for example, continuing your professional learning outside of the workplace)
  • A rationale for each of your development ideas")
Looking at myself, I see a budding instructional designer with a wealth of good ideas, some experience, a lot of excitement, and a need for practice. While there are many positive things Walden's MSIDT program provides, its curriculum is short on opportunities to practice and fully integrate the different areas of professional practice that instructional design includes. Some classes even feature projects whose requirements conflict with best practices taught in other classes, which is often frustrating. This leaves me with the feeling that my primary goal in professional development post-MS involves unification and synthesis of the different lessons I've been taught over the past two years.

Formal education
It may seem strange that my first area for professional development is "formal education" given that I'm about to complete a Master's degree. However, I've watched my skills and knowledge grow very quickly through the years I've been in graduate school, and I think part of the reason is that my mind works differently when I'm actively engaged in learning new things. I believe that, in my own case, learning is a habit as much as a skill, and graduate school instills and strengthens that habit. Put simply, I believe that I am a better employee when I am working to learn things: my mind is quicker, my writing is clearer, and my ideas flow more freely.

There are many areas of instructional design practice I would like to explore more fully, including
  • the role of multimedia in learning
  • the use of mobile devices for learning and electronic performance support
  • how to teach facilitation skills to novices
  • how to crystallize ID practice into easily-communicated chunks for laypeople
  • fostering far transfer of training into complex, high-level environments
  • statistical methods for analyzing instructional effectiveness
  • quantifying the effect of distraction on learning
  • teaching and promoting metacognitive strategies in learners
  • instructional methods analysis with focus on low implementation cost
  • collaboration around teaching basic video media production to instructional designers
  • the interaction between good instructional design and pre-fabricated curricula such as those for No Child Left Behind
  • development of effective coaching and mentoring systems
  • development of Training For Trainers (T4T) courses
  • development of low-cost higher-level evaluation measures for training courses
  • evaluating return on investment (ROI) for attitudinal training such as suicide awareness/intervention

Evaluation of work
My coursework included substantial segments about program evaluation and project management, and the courses on performance improvement definitely played into my fixation on results. That said, the old adage that "a man who proofs his own prose has a fool for an editor" holds true for instructional design work. I will need help evaluating my design work and holding it up to the light of analysis.

If past experience holds true, I will not lack for supporters and proponents; people generally think my work is excellent. Sometimes, I even agree with them! For example, a training program I created recently won the NSU Award for Outstanding Practice by a Graduate Student from the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. I'm (justifiably?) proud of this, because it tells me that I'm moving in the right direction in my work as a designer.

But too often, I've seen people laud my work simply because it was better than what came before. Often, I've been the first person to develop training around an issue, which makes my work de facto an improvement. But for true professional growth, I need colleagues who will help me see areas where my work needs to improve, not just those where it already excels. I don't think these colleagues must be instructional designers--I just think they need to be willing to ask questions, give suggestions, and examine data with me.

Assessment/performance appraisal
This relates to the previous set of professional development goals. On the face of it, this is a pretty obvious need, but there's a deeper level that requires a bit of explanation.

I am, among other things, a professional musician. (If you're interested in Celtic music, please check out my band, Frost and Fire! We have some new music that we're releasing on our Facebook page, too!) I love performing, and I've learned something over the last few decades of music: I play best when people are listening. I put the most energy into my performance, and I create music on a level that doesn't seem to happen when I'm just playing for myself. I work hardest when there's an audience.

Do you see how this connects to a need for performance appraisal and assessment? I don't mean that I want recognition for good performance, although that's always nice. I mean that knowing I'm going to be observed changes my performance. Whenever I'm working in a context where people assess my performance, I always seem to turn it up a notch, and I think that building in opportunities for assessment is important for my long-term professional growth. Again, I'm not looking for empty compliments and fulsome praise; I'm looking for honesty. (And I hope I'll remember that when the comments aren't favorable!)

This is where it all comes together. I am a fairly seasoned professional in the crisis hotline business, but a relatively new one in the world of instructional design. I don't know all the tricks yet, and I don't know all the right people. My network is small. I also worry that once I graduate and lose access to Walden's reference library, it will become harder and harder for me to stay in touch with new developments in the ID field (since academic research is hard to access for people outside academia).

Who will help me find new areas to explore? Who will pick me up and dust me off when the inevitable low points hit? Who will teach me how to mentor other new instructional designers? Who will ferret out my flaws as a designer and help me to correct them, while helping me to see my talents as well? Who will make sure that I'm a stronger instructional designer ten years from now, not just a more experienced one?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I wish I did. I'm used to seeking--and finding--mentors in unusual places, but I'm worried about this: I'm the first instructional designer a lot of people have ever met, and IDs are a bit thin on the ground in northern New York. Where do I go for mentoring? I have some leads already, and I have friends who respect me but also challenge me and demand evidence... is that what the mentor role looks like in the post-graduate world? I work in a business that's too small to provide formal mentoring on instructional design--I am the expert and mentor now. So where do I look for other mentors? That is, perhaps, my biggest long-term goal.


Noe, R. A. (2010). Employee training and development. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.