#LTHEchat 141 How can staff development support effectively the work of professionals (staff and students)? with @DrRossEspinoza

There are multiple definitions of staff development and names used to describe this area of work. For this discussion, let’s start with one. Staff development can be described as a continuous process involving “education, training, learning and support activities”. It aims to encourage other professionals to grow in their workplace (Marriss, 2011). In a nutshell, staff development is about planting seeds for growth.

In real life, however, things are a little bit more complex. As we know, Higher Education faces turbulent times. We may have witnessed staff development resources becoming constrained or directed elsewhere. And if resources are available, with daily stresses, such as heavy workload, unfriendly and perhaps alien structures and systems, no wonder we may even forget about developing ourselves.

Traditionally, staff development provision has been influenced by a deficit model. In other words, such provision is organised in response to what knowledge, skills and attitudes staff may need in order to do their job effectively. While the intention is positive and as professionals we may require some of that kind of support, could combining strengths and areas of development possibly offer a more balanced approach to help professionals face job demands?

Moreover, Higher Education institutions are typically huge hierarchical entities, so provision is put together to explain the institution’s processes, systems and structures. Staff development, for example, may be put in place to pass on to staff and students how to use online systems that all have to use, to be aware of compliant procedures, and others. In the big picture, this is needed for institutions to continue functioning, but does not necessarily inspire or motivate us.

When we think of the development of our own profession, we consider, for example, attending courses, participating in a workshop, using technologies or other ways. However, it is not an uncommon experience that after taking staff development opportunities (for example, a course), the good effects may be lost when we return to where we work.

On the other hand, ingredients for effective staff development include ‘observation, reflection, planning and action’ (Marriss, 2011), which staff development integrates in their provision. There are also opportunities to enhance its effectiveness by situating staff development within the workplace, so it can take account of routine influences and take advantage of peer learning (Boud, 2006). So, the question remains: ‘How can staff development support effectively the work of professionals (staff and students)’

Staff Development has been my passion and profession since the time I was a university student. This week’s LTHEchat is dedicated to the work of so many professionals whose passion is to help other professionals grow and develop in Higher Education. This discussion seeks to explore potential avenues for re-invention, collaboration and partnership, when organising staff development.


Boud, D. (1999). Situating academic development in professional work: Using peer learning, The International Journal for Academic Development, 4:1, 3-10.

Marriss, D. (2011). Academic staff development. In A. McIntosh, J. Gidman, & E. Mason-Whitehead (Eds.), Key Concepts in Healthcare Education (pp. 1-5). Los Angeles: SAGE.

RossanaDr. Rossana Espinoza (https://www.linkedin.com/in/drrossespinoza/) is a free spirit who takes every opportunity to help others succeed in what they do. She is passionate about Education and technology (please note the capital E and lower case t!). Currently, she is on a mission to reinvent Marketing and Communications for her much-loved Staff Development Forum (SDF) Network on a pro-bono basis.

Weekdays, she is in London working as an Online Content Developer at the Centre for Academic Practice Enhancement at Middlesex University, helping staff with active practice based learning, collaborative learning classrooms or social media. When she isn’t training staff or developing online courses on Moodle, she is hanging out with friends, drawing, or making a tiramisu.

The Wakelet for this week’s chat is now here



About KJHaxton

Katherine Haxton @kjhaxton is a senior lecturer in Chemistry at Keele University. Her research interests range from the use of diagnostic tests to support more effective teaching through to the impact of workload on student achievement.
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