Professional development for support staff : time well spent




Ives, Mary Elizabeth Louise

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Little has been written about opportunities for support staff to participate in professional development. Most of the related literature cites professional development for middle and upper management people. This study examined a particular in-service approach to professional development for support staff of the Greater Victoria School District (#61). In this approach, employees were centrally involved in suggesting topics for courses and workshops, facilitating workshops as resident experts, and engaged as participants. The purpose of the study was to: 1) understand voluntary participation; 2) examine the relationship between work-related learning and learning for personal growth and, 3) compare the cost of the in-service approach to two alternative options. The researcher gathered information from three sources: 1) a five-year database which tracked participation activities in a longitudinal quantitative study; 2) results of Boshier's Education Participation Scale (A Form) circulated to provide quantitative data of a cross-sectional study of participation and, 3) a series of interviews with twelve participants, recording their perspectives on the staff development program. A cost-effectiveness analysis was also conducted to determine the most economic approach to professional development. Some important findings of this study were the similar patterns of participation according to national figures of adult education participation in the Statistics Canada 2001 report. Examining variables of gender and frequency, a) this study found 71 percent male and 74 percent female participation in work-related courses compared to national figures of 62 percent male and 62 percent female participation in work-related adult education. And b) nationally 30 percent of adult Canadians participated in adult education compared to 26 percent of the population in this study. Evidence supported the fact that staff development participants preferred professional development topics rather than personal growth subjects. In the school calendar year, 1995/96 participants engaged in 66 percent work related courses, which evolved to 80 percent by 1999/00. The development of competent professional development programming involved more than predicting the needs of employees interested in remaining current in their job skills, or preparing for career advancement. Competent practice of professional development for support staff was positively influenced by a collaborative approach of all stakeholders; management, staff and, program facilitators. This study has implications for human resource personnel and training directors, employees, and others interested in workplace learning. It also shows that employees voluntarily suggest both professional and personal growth topics as important to their individual roles. The collaborative model studied here may be of interest and value in a variety of organizational settings, even those within a hierarchical structure. There are some promising avenues of future research which could also be explored.



Career development, School employees