Connections, confidence, and competence: the meaning of professional development for community college support staff personnel

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Huiskamp, Juliana
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Larry H. Ebbers
Frankie S. Laanan
Patricia R. Leigh
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Using a qualitative, phenomenological methodology this dissertation study describes and examines the meaning of participation in professional development for community college support staff and the perceived meaning, benefits, and challenges to both the individual participant and the institution. The research site is an urban Midwestern U.S. community college that offers a comprehensive staff development program. The study includes the perspectives of both support staff participants in professional development and administrative staff who work closely with the program. A total of 15, all female, participants---11 support staff and four administrative staff---took part in the study.;This study was of interest because, despite the fact that over 25% of the employees in U.S. community colleges are classified as support staff, no substantive empirical research regarding any aspect of community college support staff participation in professional development could be identified. Additionally, the literature has strongly suggested that focused professional development programs have been shown to have a positive effect on the personnel who participate in them and on the institutions in which they work. Literature reviewed for the study includes community college professional development, the learning college and learning organization, and women's ways of knowing and learning.;Study data were analyzed using the Moustakas modification of the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method for analyzing phenomenological data. This analysis resulted in nine textural themes: gaining knowledge, personal improvement, social enjoyment, attaining career/educational goals, support and encouragement, organizational issues, equity of access, obstacles, and opportunities and three structural themes: connections, confidence, and competence. Recommendations for practice from the study results include: providing equitable professional development opportunities for all staff in the college; providing and supporting opportunities for informal learning and networking for support staff personnel; and providing a wide range of personal and professional development activities at flexible times that are open to staff and faculty across the college.

Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2008