Experienced Staff Summit

Posted: 9 November 2016

Author: Lisa Dickner, Community Learning Network

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In 2009, I joined the CLN as the Regional Resource Network Manager and for four years I traveled around the province meeting staff at Regional Meetings and at events like the Symposium. A big part of my job was to get to know the staff of CALCs and to provide whatever support I could through my role on 15 hours/week. Since then our system has undergone a lot of changes and CLN more than most! We have moved to a point where we have nine full-time staff dedicated to providing professional development and training on a regular basis and an integrated communication structure that seemed like a dream back in 2009. As part of our commitment to provide excellent service and supports, we want to continue to be well connected to you. We want to ensure that needs are being met and ultimately that learners are benefitting from the resources and connections shared through the process.

For the past several years, we have focused on system staff turn-over and invested in support for new staff joining CALPs to facilitate their ability to get up to speed quickly on all things CALP. While I don’t think we’re “done” providing this type of support by any means, I am confident that we are working in the right direction and have made great improvements in both process and supports for those working directly and indirectly with adult learners.

So, if you are not new to the system… you must be experienced… and how does support for experienced staff differ from those new to the system? Voila, bring these folks together and you will learn a lot in a very short period of time! On October 20th we were pleased to host 40 CALP staff members with 10 years of experience or more, representing all regions in the province and from a variety of backgrounds (adult learning, literacy and family literacy) and positions (Executive Directors, Coordinators, Program Staff) along with CLN’s Board of Directors. With 637 years of combined experience – it was a whirlwind of sharing, noting, posting and discussion in the room.

Experienced Staff Summit

The process was designed to “mine” information from those in the room and it started with “What are you already doing to support your Professional Development and learning needs?” A wall of post-its was formed under the themes of “Programs” and “Operations.” Here’s what experienced staff currently do to support their own learning:

Key activities and PD to support CALP Programs:

  • Networking – including the Literacy & Learning Symposium, and Regional Meetings and interagency meetings
  • Cultural Competencies training – including cultural diversity, Indigenous perspectives, and intercultural communication; specific mention of courses by NorQuest College and University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills
  • Digital tools – including the CALP Portal and Database, webinars, online conferencing tools (Google Hangout, etc.) and social media
  • Training for specific types of programming: key examples - IAFL (Intro to Adult Foundational Learning), Introduction to Family Literacy, Momentum’s Financial Literacy Train the Facilitator course, Rural Routes’ ESL courses, workplace essential skills through AWES (Alberta Workforce Essential Skills)

Key activities and PD to support CALP Operations:

  • Board Development courses – through CLN, Alberta Culture, or other volunteer organizations like Propellus (formerly Volunteer Calgary)
  • Community dialogues and needs assessments
  • Advocacy and marketing, including through social media
  • Peer to peer mentoring/coaching and networking
  • Fund development and grant making courses
  • Leadership training – peer to peer mentoring as well as more formal courses through the Banff Centre, for example
  • Specific trainings for operations and learner support: key examples – Mental Health First Aid, human resources management courses, PD through or with CCIs, risk management/succession planning, community development

Terri Peters, CLN Training Manager, facilitated this process and has also cleverly captured some of these PD and training resources and ideas in a document along with links to each. If you are looking for PD ideas – this is an excellent resource for you!

CLICK HERE to download the list.

We next asked “What else do you want to learn? What’s urgent? Most pressing?” In groups, yet more post-it notes were added to the “PD Wall”. The most difficult decisions came next with the allocation of just 10 “dots” to set priorities of what was considered most pressing/urgent to move to the next stage of the conversation. The following topics were identified for an expanded discussion:

  • Succession Planning
  • Indigenous Cultural Competencies
  • Immigration and Citizenship
  • Technology (for staff and learners)
  • Peer to Peer Learning
  • Systems Theory in Action

One additional item was added to the list - New staff – brainstorming how to support new staff and what is really needed to ensure their success in their role.

Lastly, we asked “How do you like to learn?” While many ideas were noted, it was clear that meeting face-to-face was highly appreciated and/or some type of blended learning environment.

  • Face-to-face (experiential or activity-based)
  • Webinars - interactive, recorded - group or individual
  • Phone someone
  • Blended learning (online and face-to-face, asynchronous)
  • Mentoring
  • Web-based conferencing
  • Research - self-directed or sharing with colleagues (or both)
  • Symposium - full day sessions
  • Regional system and support staff
  • Learning - action, pilot, review
  • Ongoing training/supports/mentoring

So where to next? How are we using this data?

On November 4th we presented a summary to the Professional Development Advisory Committee. Several committee members had also attended the Summit so PDAC also benefited from first-hand conversations about their experience and learnings from the day. The CLN’s Board is meeting on November 9 & 10th and will advance this conversation as we plan for upcoming events like Regional Meetings and the 2017 Literacy and Learning Symposium, and development of new eLearning workshops. The Regional Support Staff will also review the data collected and incorporate tools and resources into regional supports.

We also heard loud and clear that continuing to provide opportunities for experienced staff to learn from each other is valued, so we are looking at enhancing ways to do this at Regional Meetings and at the Symposium.

We also heard that tools like the Portal, CALP Database, Regional Staff (working full-time), expanded Symposium program, and regional training initiatives were adding value for both experienced and new staff.

Our next steps are to really focus on the design of the tools we have (Symposium, Regional Meetings, and Regional Training) to be more targeted and consider both new and experienced staff in their design and delivery.

Our thanks to everyone who participated and shared their voice with us through the process. For those who were unable to join us, we want to hear from you! This is an ongoing process and more input is needed to advance this important part of our system – continuity!

Lisa Dickner, Executive Director, with Terri Peters, Training Manager


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