I’ve been thinking about professional development quite a bit lately. Since for me that includes a great deal of work around better supporting data use (or being an advocate for actionable data), I thought a blog post to summarize what I’ve been up to, am planning, and aspire to do might be of interest to others. And I’m especially interested in learning about how others work to learn and grow professionally (please share in comments if you are willing!).
I also have to give a little shout out to Melanie Booth’s Prattlenog post A Business Plan for Life’s Work which spurred some of my ‘noodling’ about this — someday perhaps I will integrate this in a focused way into a plan for my life’s work. I’m not sure I know what exactly I want that life’s work to be just yet, but it sounds lovely to be more planful about it!
Here’s what I have been up to and consider vital to my professional development:
- Blogging, obviously…. Blogging, I find, helps me to frame some of my thinking — focus on a topic of interest or two at a time, and to explore topics with friends via collaborative work. A shout-out to Digital Writing month (which just wrapped up) is deserved here — my participation is responsible for the more substantive, and frequent, recent posts on this blog, as well as a new-found interest in more collaborative writing, and generally a great community of other folks who strive to write well digitally.
- Staying involved in a local professional membership organization — the Oregon Program Evaluators Network (OPEN) serves as an extremely valuable network for me with other program evaluation (and related fields) professionals — OPEN holds regular events that are intended as learning opportunities for members including a conference (next one coming up in March 2013).
- Learning from my colleagues. I am so very fortunate to work at an institution focused on learning. This means that I have the freedom, and am encouraged, to learn and grow, and that opportunities for learning from others at my institution (and from other institutions) abound. Some days I feel I learn something new at every single meeting I attend.
- Tweeting! (@KimFLeonard) I know, it’s a little crazy, but I’m now (again, thanks to Digital Writing Month) totally addicted to twitter. I have saved no fewer than 50 tweets in the last month or so because they contain links to articles or blog posts or news blurbs that I want to read (and some I know will be wonderful). I wouldn’t have known about most of these without twitter. And now I just have to figure out what to do with all of them!
I am planning to …
- Continue the above efforts, and attempt to organize, focus, and make a plan for tackling the growing pile of readings that I’ve collected.
- Attend American Evaluation Association coffee break sessions that are relevant. There’s one coming up Thursday (12/6) titled “Meaningful & Accessible: Presenting Results in Ways that are Useful to Clients.” These are free, quick webinars that cover new tools or aspects of evaluation practice.
- Attend the Oregon Program Evaluation Network conference in March 2013 and as many OPEN events throughout the year as possible (many of which are free)
- Participate in the FREE upcoming Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization MOOC (massive open online course) on data visualization from the Knight School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. (something I learned about via twitter!)
I aspire to …
- Read several books I’ve had on my growing ‘to read’ list and polish up some of my more technical skills.
- Attend the American Evaluation Association conference in 2013. Not sure yet how I’m going to make that happen, but I so want to be there. It would be even more wonderful to present on an assessment project — something I’ll be thinking about in the months to come.
- Write an article about an assessment or evaluation project to submit for journal publication.
- Gain more experience and learn new things in doing consulting and independent contract work.
Writing all this out is prompting me to think about taking advice I usually give to others — break this up into meaningful, manageable pieces and make a plan to tackle them with a bent towards how I can get the return on my investment (in this case of time and energy I might otherwise spend doing other fun this). Hopefully as a result of all this, my ability to support and advocate for wise use of data will strengthen and grow.
How do you keep current? Intentionally learn and grow professionally? Have resources to share? Have made a ‘business plan for your life’s work’? Please comment!