Over the past year, we have all been taxed in various ways, but our goal has always been, and still is, to provide the best learning environment for our students. Now, with the requirements, restrictions, and many other hurdles brought on by the pandemic we are at a precipice on how to accomplish this goal. The IMPACT document suggests that this is best achieved through the second pillar of PROWESS, ownership. We are going to explore ownership this month, as it relates to how divisional/departmental and institutional leadership can take ownership using various tools such as professional development (PD) to support that goal.
The IMPACT document states that participation in PD activities has a measurable positive impact on teaching. Professional Development has undergone a paradigm shift in colleges across the world during this time. What was the primary focus before the pandemic started versus during the pandemic, and how has this evolved over the course of the past year? I know in my region, the hollows of West Virginia with poor internet connection, our focus was on how to ensure all students, faculty, and administrators had access. This shift in focus forced us to provide some PD from the start.
IMPACT states that the keys to providing an effective PD program include:
- obtaining faculty engagement and ownership
- making the process easy to administer
- tying it to the Annual Performance Evaluation
- being consistent and flexible
- rewarding active participation
- encouraging faculty with similar goals to attend activities together
- making all forms electronic, easy for faculty to modify and easy for managers to track
- creating a faculty portfolio location on employee portal or LMS (p. 40)
In the early months of the pandemic I found the first item in the list to be the most important. Getting faculty motivated through some form of new PD that addresses the needs of our students and faculty was essential. Even with all the different virtual webinars and support systems out there, it can be overwhelming at times. Regardless, we still need to make sure that the faculty can be engaged and take ownership of their PD. I found as the department lead for my small community college, showing my support and backing my faculty were the most important things I could do to create the most conducive environment. Although daunting at first, getting that re-engagement with students, colleagues, and state level officials was essential to wade through the pandemic. I have met with my department every week via Zoom to have them share what they have learned and encouraged them to share across disciplines.
We may not be out of the woods yet. As restrictions start easing up around the country, there are still some uncertainties out there. What will travel conditions be in a couple of months? How far out can we actually plan for getting together and having PD in a normal format at a state level as well as a national level? How do these experiences impact my course of action as I prepare my department for the upcoming academic year? Yes, we can have PD virtually, but there is nothing like a bunch of like-minded mathematicians getting together and sharing ideas.
Join us this month as we discuss the possibilities in leadership and PD as we continue to navigate through the effects of COVID 19 on higher education institutions and mathematics education.