In the absence of growth, atrophy.
The world is constantly changing, and as a learning professional, your role is constantly shifting. To remain relevant and to have a positive impact in your profession, you must continually acquire and expand your knowledge and skills to improve yourself in your craft.
In this blog post, I will share some of my current thoughts on professional development in instructional design.
4 Strategies for Setting Professional Development Goals
- Be clear about how you will impact peoples’ lives. If you have this clarity, then your next step often becomes more clear. I have articulated my professional purpose in this manner: “My professional purpose and mission is to discover and share knowledge that inspires, empowers, and equips others to succeed in their careers and lives.”
- Envision your future self. What kind of a person do you want to be? What do you want to become? Look at examples of people you want to be like and identify the traits you would like to develop. Who do you want to become in a year? In three years? Create a compelling vision of yourself and make it a reality!
- Have career goals. Your career is going to happen, so you might as well be deliberate about what you want to happen within that career. What is the next position you would like to hold? What is the dream job you want to work toward? Work to align your career with how you want to impact peoples’ lives.
- Create clear actions for reaching your goals. Be specific about the steps you will take – the skills you will develop, the people you will meet, and the knowledge you will gain. It is sometimes helpful to create a timeline for what you would like to happen, realizing that timelines and paths are fluid and ever-changing. Be sure to identify the most important step you must take and focus on that step.
Categories of Development in Instructional Design
There are 4 basic areas of professional development within the field of instructional design:
- Process knowledge and skills. These include project management and workflow, and the result of these skills is increased efficiency, quality control, and empowerment of designers. What knowledge or skills would increase your efficiency or effectiveness in your design processes?
- Technology knowledge and skills. These include technologies that deliver or enhance the learning experience, track design processes, evaluate learning, and manage the overall learning experience. What are your technological gaps as an instructional designer?
- Theory. These include research and theory on how people learn (learning theory) and how to help them learn (instructional theory). There are many theories and models for learning that are pretty innovative, and improving and refining your understanding of how to help people learn is quite important. In addition, younger generations experience information and knowledge differently than perhaps older generations do, and understanding their experiences and expectations will also inform how you design. How might you deepen or refine your theoretical knowledge?
- Self-improvement. You are the instrument through which all design takes place. You must make yourself the most effective “technology” possible. How could you improve and optimize your attitudes, beliefs and habits? How could you improve your health and mental sharpness? What could you do right now to make yourself a more balanced, well-rounded individual?
General vs. Specialized Development
I have a fairly high level of specialized knowledge in learning and instruction. I have been involved in teaching, learning and instructional design for nearly 20 years, now, including an MS degree, a PhD, several years of training and design experience, and years teaching ID to graduate students. However, I have realized that I use a great deal of general knowledge and skills to make my work meaningful and useful. These general skills are not necessarily design-specific and might include communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, among many others. Design skills are essential, but so are the general skills.
I will finish this discussion with two questions for your consideration:
- What design-specific knowledge and skills (e.g. technologies, processes, theory, etc.) do you personally need to develop to make yourself more effective as an instructional designer?
- What general knowledge and skills (e.g. communication skills, critical thinking, project management, political savvy, etc.) do you personally need to develop to make yourself a more effective professional?