Professional development is a term used to refer to the knowledge and skills individuals attain for career and personal development. Professional development involves all kinds of learning opportunities that are facilitated, ranging from conferences to college degrees to learning opportunities that are informal situated in practice. This form of development has been described as collaborative and intensive, ideally involving a stage that is evaluated. There are number of approaches individuals apply to professional development some of which include coaching, consultation, lesson study, practice communities, mentoring technical assistance, as well as, reflective supervision (National Professional Development Center on Inclusion, 2008).
Many individuals participate in professional development; these include such people as military officers, teachers, health care professionals, accountants, lawyers and engineers, individuals participate in professional development for many reasons. Some of them include interest of learning, to fulfill some sense of moral obligation, enhance progression in career to improve competence in profession, to stay updated with new practice and technology, or simply to comply with rules and regulations of a professional organization. Some organization might require individuals to upgrade their skills and knowledge regularly, and as such they are required to enroll in professional development programs (National Professional Development Center on Inclusion, 2008).
Generally, professional development might include such approaches as vocational education that takes a formal form, usually post- technical training that usually leads to the credential or qualification required for one to retain or obtain career or employment. Professional development at other times also comes in the form of in- service or pre- service programs of professional development. These programs might be informal, formal for either groups or individuals. In some cases, individuals pursue or seek to develop themselves independently or programs for individuals or groups might be made available by the human resource department. Professional development for individuals or groups on the job might be for the purposes of developing or enhancing process skills required for the job that are sometimes called leadership skills. Some examples of these leadership skills might include such things as effectiveness skills, systems thinking skills, and team functioning skills. Opportunities for professional development can vary widely from semester long course to single workshop course that are offered by a number of providers for professional development (Golding & Gray, 2006).
This paper will analyze two types of personal development programs which include the development of leadership skills in women and enhancing written and oral communication skills among individuals. In addition to analyzing these two development programs, the paper is also going to highlight the key features of these two and show their suitability in professional development.
Professional development can be defined as all those activities, whether conscious or planned, that are supposed to bring about benefits directly or indirectly to an individual , school or a group of people which contribute to the education quality in a classroom. According to Day, professional development is the process by which among others, teachers evaluate renew and even extend their commitments to their professions as agents of change to the purposes that are based on morals of teaching, and through which they acquire and develop skills and knowledge important to good thinking among the professional, practice and planning with young people, children, and colleagues through each stage of their professional lives (Day, 1994).
Professional development is an essential process that improves and enhances the skills and knowledge of an individual in certain ways. In just the same way, it is the process that offers and imposes on individuals benefits for the development and growth of an organization and enhancing professionalism among groups and individuals. Some of the most common strategies used in professional development include such things as mentoring, notion of learning communities and coaching. There are also other definitions of professional development by other professionals. One other definition is that the term professional development is used to mean an overarching concept which should embrace staff development as well as the development of individuals (Bell, 1991).
From this definition, it becomes clear that professional development contributes to the individual and personal needs of a member of staff and it also includes the development of the staff as a group which is usually focused on how learning encourages and enhances learning within a group and in an organization. It should be clear here that individuals and organizations, as well, need to be responsible of their development; this is to mean that professional development should not always be viewed as the responsibility of the organization towards the individual. Rather the process should be taken as a process that is collaborative in which the organization, as well as, the individual takes some specific responsibilities for engaging and identifying some of the most effective and appropriate development (Bubb & Earley, 2007).
Professional development programs have numerous functions. For example, they aim to develop individuals and groups professionally. In most of the cases, the driving force behind professional development comes from a wide variety of directions. For instance, it is usually required and mandated by policies by the government, encouraged and sought after by teachers in education as a way of addressing certain challenges or even developed and established in partnership between different universities, schools and the wider community. However, it is essential that a balance be struck between the needs of an organization and those of the needs of the individual or group whatever the driving force (Speck & Knipe, 2005).
Today, for most professional groups all over the world, ongoing or continuous professional development has become a requirement for all members. Professionals like teachers, medical professionals, architects and other professionals are required by certain policies and regulations to undertake certain levels of professional development programs a few times each year. For some professionals, it is even mandatory to undertake these professional development programs each year. However, this inconvenience has been made easier by the World Wide Web which enables organizations and other groups to post professional development information on the web which makes it readily available to all professionals (Jasper, 2006).
According to recent studies, the majority, about 71 percent, of the organizations do not have strategies and philosophies that are well or clearly defined for the development of leadership skills and roles in women despite a lot of organizational efforts. The studies received and collected responses and data from thousands of human resource departments, diversity leaders and talent management departments from all over the world about development programs for women leadership. Leaders who are high- impact and experienced are aware of the fact that bad times are as a result of actions of leaders in good days. On the other hand, good times are as a result of effective actions that good leaders take during bad days. As a result, leaders must develop their skills and knowledge so that they get equipped with the correct tools to deal with bad times in business to result to desirable outcomes. The fact that women are not developed professionally on their leadership skills makes it possible for them to make mistakes in good times that can result to results that are undesirable (Austin, 1995).
Women leadership development programs, therefore, are designed to impose on women the chance or opportunity to strengthen and explore their skills in leadership while celebrating the abilities that they possess and that are unique to them as women. Such programs aim to foster an environment that is supportive of the women, in which they can explore the challenges and issues that face them specifically as women and to teach them skills, knowledge, and wisdom that women might find useful in reaching and achieving their full potential. As it follows, these programs give women time and the opportunity to reflect, learn, and to energize so as to develop and improve their leadership skills for them to develop into leaders who are more effective in their various roles and responsibilities. One of the common features of these programs is that they are usually focused on developing individuals and they are built upon the basis or the belief that individual women have the capacity to improve their leadership abilities and skills; that they still can grow, learn and change. Most programs are offered in a number of phases, the main ones being three, each of which builds on the other, each increasing the depth that opens more opportunities for the women to grow and expand as leaders (Rogala, Lambert & Verhage, 1992).
The first phase of most professional development programs for women focuses on the conceptual framework of leadership, the differences and similarities between female leaders and male leaders, social and leadership capital, and, the most crucial, creativity, the driving force of development of leadership. The second phase of the professional development programs for women leaders sheds light on the personality, of the individual, their character, and behavior using such tools as SDI or strength deployment inventory and the MBTI, Myers- Briggs type indicator. During this stage, the program focuses on the techniques and skills that make the women participants to interact with each other cohesively in a social network (Rogala, Lambert & Verhage, 1992).
The third phase of the programs provides the women participants with time to work on and improve on their needs for practical leadership development in a setting involving a small group. In such programs, the skills set and topic covered helps the women participants enhance their abilities in leadership. In most cases, participants are funded and self- selected by their organizations. These stages in training develop different areas in the participants with the first developing their skills and knowledge in management, the second developing their social interaction skills and the third allowing the women to practice and finesse their abilities and the knowledge they have learned in the program. The end result is that the women improve their skills all- round and become better and improved leaders. All these are achieved through a number of approaches including mentoring programs for the women, women presentations, workshops and keynotes, women networks and women leadership development coaching (Wake County Business Education Leadership Council V Wake County Public School System, 1995).
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