By Tim Ammon and Tom Platt on October 26, 2020
The pandemic has changed a tremendous amount in student transportation. The exponential increase in both the amount of professional development material available and the transition to low-cost, high volume distribution platforms will be one of the more consequential changes to the industry. The questions that leaders and mangers need to ask themselves are: how will we meet the new expectation that this type of material will be regularly available?; and how will we assess whether any of this material has made any difference?
The initial question that needs to be addressed has three key parts. The first question is how do you identify where quality content is coming from? One incredibly encouraging aspect of the pandemic is that the need for content vastly expanded the individuals and organizations contributing to wider array of topics. While this increase in the diversity of opinion is undoubtedly good, finding ways to quality check the information will be significantly more important.
The second part of the question is how will the material be organized into cogent and coherent lesson structures? A key issue with the traditional industry approach to professional development was that material was presented when it was made available. That meant that there was often no connection between two consecutive training sessions and long gaps between detailed discussions of the same topic. When all of this material is readily available, it becomes incumbent on leaders to organize it and present it in a logical sequence that considers the different types of adult learning styles. This is no small task and something that has been ignored in most professional development settings.
The third part of the question is how the material will be distributed to employees. The dramatic increase in low cost, always available learning management systems are a game changing innovation in professional development. This dramatically simplifies the question of distribution, but still requires thoughtful consideration of categorization and setup. Creating a structure to make time available and compensate employees for development activities will remain a challenge but will be a critical element in ensuring that organizations get value from all of the new material that is out there.
Once we have figured out how to get and deliver content, it will be necessary to assess whether more information presented in a logical manner has resulted in better outcomes. This implies that organizations will have systems in place to track what people have been exposed to, methods to assess whether they have understood the material, and evaluation tools to see whether behaviors have changed. Building this infrastructure will require a thoughtful assessment of how to measure the baseline of each individual employee and a method to track ongoing performance.
Measuring what people have learned and whether it has had a positive impact has been the nemesis of the education sector forever. For us to believe we will solve that riddle when generations of researchers and practitioners have not would be the height of hubris. However, the investment we will need to make necessitates strong consideration of how to justify the expenditures. At DSG, we think that developing a balanced and reasoned approach to measuring the relationship between development activities and actual development can be designed. Please contact us if you would like to talk about designing a professional development strategy.