Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Professional Learning - that's what we do

spiral staircaseWhat do we call ourselves? How do we describe what we do?

 For individuals involved in supporting faculty and staff in higher education, these question never seems to go away. Over time, as we refine our goals and teaching and learning philosophies, the nomenclature becomes mismatched, or outdated. In teaching and learning centres across the province we hear people talk about faculty development, faculty developers, professional development, academic growth, educational developers, and so on. We coach, mentor, facilitate workshops, encourage reflective practice, and even train (ahhh! the "t" word!). We all know what we do, but seem to be challenged by which labels to apply.

At BCcampus our work around curriculum and professional development has always been closely integrated, and for good reason. Although curriculum is often thought of as a set of courses and content, it embraces much more than that. Curriculum is what educators are immersed in, and they require professional knowledge and skills to do this work effectively. Over the years we have cycled through names for this service area, such as Online Communities and Academic Growth and Curriculum Development and Academic Growth. In this profession, there is a tendency to think of where one activity ends, the other begins -- you develop something here, you learn something there. In practice, we are all doing this thing called curriculum and learning how to do it better. Hmmm, so that's what we do. But still, what do we call it?

For my first three years at BCcampus my job title situated me squarely in the online communities service area, again a label that was too narrow for the nature of the work. While supporting learning through communities of practice is a major focus, we are also involved in cultivating learning networks and organizing and hosting events -- both face to face and online. So when I began my role as Acting Director last year, I wanted to find a label that aligned more closely with the full suite of educator services, and stated more clearly our ultimate goal -- to support learning. What better way to figure this out than to ask the twitterverse! The winner? Professional Learning (Thanks @bill_world!).

After settling into this new Professional Learning job title, it made sense to also modify the name for our service area. It is now called Curriculum Development and Professional Learning. Do you find it encompassing and meaningful? We hope so!