10 ways to improve your professional development and studies


Embarking on a new course of study or some kind of professional development can be a difficult and, at times, lonely experience. I’ve listed few things below that we’ve noticed over the last few years that seem to make a difference for us and our learners.

While our field is literacy and numeracy education, these assumptions and success criteria really apply to any kind of study or professional development. We’ve been delivering our training since the qualification (NCALNE) became available in 2007 and although there are always exceptions to the list below, we know that people who complete this qualification typically:

  1. Accept that learning new things means learning a new language. Every area of study or work has its own set of words and terminology. Your work does and so does the field of literacy and numeracy.
  2. Choose not to be intimidated: You will need to learn some new words and terms. And new concepts. For our learners, the unfamiliar language of education and bureaucracy can be intimating. Make a decision not to be intimidated. Again, just ask someone to explain.
  3. Assume that it’s not rocket science: Despite what you might think it’s probably not all that complicated. At least, it’s always good to assume that (unless it is in fact Rocket Science). If it seems hard there may be several things going on. One is that there may be times when you have quite a lot of things to think about. Don’t confuse this with complexity. Another thing is that academics sometimes don’t realize that you don’t care about all that detail and background. But, if it does sound too complicated you might need to ask your tutors and trainers to explain it again. Just ask.

  1. Complete the first assessment task on time. Mostly, our assessments are practical and project based. But there’s some reading and writing for you to do in task 1. This involves a certain level of commitment to the material and to the writing task. We tell people to ask for help if they need it and get on with it. Pretty much without fail, people who do get on and complete the first task within the time frame go on to complete the whole qualification.
  2. Have evidence of prior study at the same level. For us in NZ this is level 5. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it helps. Lots of our learners have completed units from the adult education and training domain at the same level. This is a huge success factor.
  3. Have at least 2 or 3 years background experience. Again, we’re in education but having some practical background experience that relates to what you want to study gives you confidence. For our purposes, there’s not enough time to teach someone how to be a trainer or teacher. We’re assuming they already know how to deliver training and education in their field. That means we can get on with the focus on literacy and numeracy training. Your background can help you.
  4. Involve others: Your study will go better if you can involve others around you. We think it’s a great idea to keep your boss or supervisor informed too. You may have colleagues that you can share information and collaborate with on some aspects.
  5. Try to get most of the work done in the first half of the year: Perhaps this is less true in an online world, or even in a commercial world, but we try to schedule most of our training towards the first half of the year. Don’t let assessment tasks drag on. Negotiate a timeframe and work towards it. The slide into Christmas happens really quickly.
  6. Commit to a study group: People who get together with others to study the course materials and work on course requirements generally have a better experience. This takes more time, but we notice the difference in work submitted.
  7. Be a pain the ass. It’s the squeaky wheel principle. Our students who ring us, email us, and text us with their questions and concerns generally do better.

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