Making personal learning and professional development meaningful

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Research Application in Information and Library Studies, June 2012 University of South Australia Co-written with Sarah Fearnley and Liz Stokes This paper reflects on the linear career progression model of industry specific and organisational continuing professional development (CPD) programs. We propose to extend and innovate current developments in Personal Learning Network (PLN) models through the consideration of non-traditional, informal professional development activities. Formal professional development programs are endorsed by both institutional employers and professional organisations in the Library and Information (LIS) sector. Drawing on previous research into LIS PD programs (Brooker 2010, Dalby 2008) we argue that these programs are delivered top-down and reflect a linear based career progression model. More recently PLNs have been suggested as alternatives or enhancements to these formal PD programs (Howlett 2011, Bennett 2010). However, these alternative models are still focused on career progression and measuring success in a professional context. This paper reports on an experimental case study undertaken to interrogate the efficacy of a formal LIS industry PD program in addressing the CPD needs of university based information professionals. A modified PLN model was used to critically reflect on a series of examples (activism, community engagement and personal practice) which trouble the traditional scope of these formal programs. We argue that these examples, whilst not part of a formal (or informal) professional development program, reflect the passion and pleasure that information professionals develop through their study and work practices. These examples take place outside of the formal programs, without recognition, and enable a space for critical reflection and innovative application.


Making personal learning and professional development meaningful

Sarah Fearnley, Jessie Lymn & Liz Stokes

highlight the value of non-traditional professional development activities

reimagine PD as not always quantifiable not focussed on a linear career path a space for pleasure adaptable to an individual's situation

Project motivation

Research Question

Can LIS professional development and personal learning be meaningful outside of the bounds of a career progression model?


Ongoing literature review Semi-regular meetings Excursions Preliminary findings reported in this paper Ongoing project

What makes something meaningful?

Our needs as uni-based info pros Engaged in the field Pleasure Schns reflection in action and reflection

on action

Key terms

Professional development Hard to find a consistent & detailed definition Measurable by industry and employer (Brooker

2010; Broady-Preston & Cossham 2010) Career-oriented pursuit (Dall'alba & Sandberg 2006) Linear path to success (Valenza & Johnson 2009)

Personal learning networks

Affinity groups

Current activitiesActivity type Context Reasons

Enrol in Cert IV training and assessment Workplace funded activity Increase employability across LIS sector, Confidence building

Attend "Dealing with conflict and negotiation" 2 day workshop

Part of university-wide PD program

Improve personal communication skills, Gain confidence in approaching difficult situations, Network across the university

Participate in unit team management systems day Workplace funded activity Reflect on team culture and processes in workplace

Biblioburbia exhibition excursion Fun Part of research, Personal interest, Passion for libraries

Librarium meetup Fun Contributing back to community

Join ALIA PD Program ALIA (and self!) Career progression

Attending various ALIA Sydney event ALIA (and self!) Part of ALIA Sydney Committee, Supporting affinity group member, Relevance of topic

Write paper for RAILS8 Personal challenge Extending confidence & Part of professional practice

BTN Tour of State Library SA Fun Learning and curiosity & Enhancing the value of conference trip

Joining ALIA Sydney committee Personal challenge Networking, expanding skill set

Preliminary findings

Need for critical/reflective space Look outside the box Identity issues for LIS Importance of institutional framework

1. Need for critical + reflective space

enabled a critical space for reflection critically engage with other models of PD

motivations for engaging with PD reflective space

reflect on changing perspectives around PD

2. Look outside the box

Applying LIS skills in other contexts Draw inspiration from your own experience

Benefits of the affinity group model space based on trust motivated by DIY principles building confidence to work with bigger issues

3. Identity issues

tensions between 'librarian' and 'information professional'

'librarian' creates a coherent identity (a beacon) broader identity reflects changing practices (Partridge et al

2011) but can be vague and abstract

4. Importance of institutional frameworks

surprising finding curated engagement through affinity group

different perspective on the value of PD programs

Implications for LIS sector

look to other models/practices for inspiration make space for critical reflection recognise the personal & social value of PD keep troubling the tension of LIS identity

ReferencesBennett, T. & Wiebrands, C. 2010, 'Out on the edge: Using a personal learning network for continuing professional development', paper presented to the ALIA Access 2010 Conference, Brisbane.Broady-Preston, J., & Cossham, A. 2011, 'Keeping the information profession up to date: Are compulsory schemes the answer?', IFLA Journal, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 28-38.Brooker, J. 2010, 'Panning for gold: Professional development 2010-2015', paper presented to the ALIA Access 2010 Conference, Brisbane.Certeau, M.d. 1984, The practice of everyday life, trans. S. Rendall, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London.DallAlba, G. & Sandberg, J. 2006, 'Unveiling professional development: A critical review of stage models', Review of Educational Research, vol. 76, no. 3, pp. 383-416.Howlett, A. 2011, 'Connecting to the LIS online comunity: A new information professional developing a personal learning network', paper presented to the ALIA 5th New Librarians Symposium 2011, Perth.Partridge, H.L., Hanisch, J., Hughes, H.E., Henninger, M., Carroll, M., Combes, B., Genoni, P., Reynolds, S., Tanner, K., Burford, S., Ellis, L., Hider, P. & Yates, C. 2011, Re-conceptualising and re-positioning Australian library and information science education for the 21st century [Final Report 2011], Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Sydney.Valenza, J.K. & Johnson, D. 2009, 'Things that keep us up at night', School Library Journal, vol. 55, no. 10, pp. 28-32.