A look back at 2022 - Part II


This is part II of V of a look back to 2022. The first part of this series did a bit of reflecting on professional expectations in the form of peer review requests that I received in 2022. This next section is all about retooling, pondering, and...

Figuring out what PD means for me

I think that 2022 was really about recovering from my doctoral work. I completed my defense in July 2021, and all edits were accepted and published, and the degree was granted by October 2021. This, in essence, left me the entirety of 2022 to just let my brain air out a bit and recalibrate. Looking back, 2011-2016 were my MOOC years (free-range learning), and 2014-2021 were my Doc years (structured learning), and lots of time and brain bandwidth were allotted to that endeavor.  While there were bumps in the road, I am really happy with the committee I had in the end, and they supported me in reaching that finish line. The completion of a doctorate means that I "won" at academia-ing right?😂  I've reached the end of the track and there are no higher degrees (and no, I don't consider post-docs to be a continuation).

Up until this point, much of my professional development was guided by the question of "what's next?" and more specifically what's next for work (or my career). This question really guided me in most of my academic work. In fact, I think that my only truly geeky and "just for the love of learning" degrees were my degrees in Applied Linguistics and my EdD in Distance Education (although this latter one had applicability to work). I would also say that much of my MOOC-based work was also just geeky fun which I didn't have any immediate use for (even for things like learning analytics and connectivism), but without a certificate to certify some natural end point, does it count?†  

This kind of "what's next?" thinking has also led me down the path of various certifications for things like digital and social media marketing (free through places like Hubspot), various education-related certs (like QM and Google educator), or stuff from past work roles (like the Avixa CTS). These certs dealt more with the present (the immediate future needs of the current job), whereas degrees were seen as a bit more medium-term (what's the next job after this one?). I think that much of my "what's next?" frame of mind was predicated upon going up the rungs of the professional ladder. Getting that next pay bump, that next title, or that next workplace challenge, something for which I needed to be in a different department, hence the necessity for job hopping.

What's changed over the last few years (beyond our uninvited guest, COVID...) is that I've reached a level on that metaphorical ladder where I can't go up any higher from my current rung. To reach new heights (in the grand scheme of things within the university), I'd need to Tarzan my way over to another ladder, which invariably would involve higher degrees of uncertainty. It would also involve leaving my current department (which I actually like), applying for jobs and interviewing (which I dislike*), and taking on a degree of uncertainty with regard to job security. One of those ladders is that of a tenure-track position, but the job (in)security aspects while you're pre-tenured don't seem worth the risk IMO when you've been at an institution for close to 25 years.

Thus, since my major goal isn't what's next in my career but rather what cool things can I learn? my mindset has changed, and my PD now has a new focus: Structured Serendipity (Zweig), which I came across during my dissertation work while reading some of @cogdog's work on DS106. The basic idea behind structured serendipity is that you expose yourself to fields that you wouldn't normally expose yourself to and maybe that will develop into some future aha!!!! moment wherein ideas from one field help you rethink your current structures and help you become more innovative.

Restructuring your PD from a highly structured goal-oriented focus into a fuzzier serendipity-based focus does pose some problems. First of all you have the question of abundance: what do you pick from? Being at a university means that there are a lot of structured courses that I could take, in addition to opportunities outside of the confines of my institution's walls. Do you pick something totally random that piques your interest?  Do you pick something you know nothing about? Do you pick something related to what you've already done? Since PD funding comes from the employer, how do you convince goal-oriented (and ROI-minded) upper managers to permit loosey-goosey learning paths and embrace the unknown?  Documentation is another point to ponder (which I brought up above). A degree or certificate program leaves you with something tangible at the end that you can show off, whereas more free-range paths to learning do not.  How do you document your learning and present evidence of it? While I prefer free-range learning, kefagogy learning opportunities, and geek-based learning, I am aware of the need to document things with major milestone just in case of an unexpected downturn.  These are the questions that I'm still pondering.

What do you think?  How do you approach your PD opportunities?


Marginalia:

† Don't answer that! Or do! It's actually an interesting topic to ponder!

* It's not that I dislike applying for jobs. What I dislike is the performative aspect of job interviews which seems to stretch on and on and on. The best interview I had (IMO) was for my current department where I just sat down and had a conversation with the department about my vision for the job, listened to where they wanted to go, and we mutually decided whether this partnership would work for both of us.

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