Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Professional Development: Specialize, or Generalize?

Find a balance between specialized and general knowledge.

I recently read an Article by Rick Wartzman wherein he describes the balancing acts organizations must do when providing training and professional development for their employees. One of the areas requiring balance is the question of depth versus breadth. Questions such as these arise:
  • How much depth, or specialized knowledge, should we train our employees to have?
  • How much breadth, or general knowledge, should we train our employees to have?
  • What is the proper balance between these two categories of knowledge?

 Depth vs. Breadth in Professional Development

Although the author is discussing the development organizations provide their employees, I have begun thinking about my own professional development and the kinds of knowledge that will be most useful to me and will make me most useful as an employee. I am currently a faculty member at Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio. I have obtained a great deal of specialized knowledge through my research (MS and PhD) and experience (4+ years, now) in the field of instructional design.

But as I attempt to apply that knowledge in real-world contexts, I find that I use a great deal of general knowledge to make my work meaningful and useful, including communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving. Instructional designers play a role within organizations, and without gaining a deeper understanding of how those organizations work and how I play a part within the organization, my work might suffer. So, I ask my self?
  • How much more specialized knowledge about instructional design should I work to obtain?
  • How much general knowledge (e.g. knowledge about my organization, about higher education in general, about management and administration, etc.) should I work to obtain?
  • What is the proper balance between these two areas of professional development?
At this point, the only answer I have is that I definitely need to have both. But what is the proper balance? How can I ensure that I spend my time and energy obtaining the knowledge and skills that will bring me satisfaction and make me a valuable employee?

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