Canadian higher ed professionals share their thoughts on professional development

Look anywhere in the media today and you’ll find people talking about how upskilling and ongoing professional development is a core component of any 21st-century profession. On top of that, many believe that positive attitudes toward professional development can be a key indicator of the health of a certain profession.

In keeping with Academica’s core mission of moving higher ed forward, we partnered with Extended Education at the University of Manitoba and went out to our Top Ten readership community to ask higher ed professionals across Canada about their attitudes toward professional development. Overall, 610 professionals working in Canadian higher ed completed the survey.

To start, we asked professionals whether they’d be interested in taking a professional development course or program that was directly related to their career in higher ed. Overall, a full third said that they were either extremely or very interested. A full 96% indicated that they were at least slightly interested.

Figure 1 – Level of interest in professional development course/program (overall group)   Question: How interested are you in taking a professional development course/program in the future?

Figure 1 – Level of interest in professional development course/program (overall group)

Question: How interested are you in taking a professional development course/program in the future?

Women, younger respondents express higher interest in professional development programming

When we broke down these results by gender, we found that respondents who identified as women were significantly more likely than those who identified as men to say they were “Extremely interested” in taking a course or program for professional development.

Figure 2 – Level of interest in PD by gender   Question: How interested are you in taking a professional development course/program in the future?

Figure 2 – Level of interest in PD by gender

Question: How interested are you in taking a professional development course/program in the future?

We then looked at the mean score of each group’s expressed interest (with a Likert scale in which 5 represented “Extremely interested” and 1 represented “Not at all interested”) and found that women overall expressed greater interest in professional development programming than men by a statistically significant margin, with a mean score of 4.2 out of 5 compared to 3.8.

Breaking the results down by age also revealed some statistically significant results. Respondents aged 25 to 45 reported higher levels of interest in professional development programming compared to those aged 50 and higher, with a steady decline in interest beginning between age 45 and 50 and trending downward as respondents’ age rose.

Figure 3 – Level of interest in PD by age (mean scores, in which 1 = Not at all interested and 5 = Extremely interested)   Question: How interested are you in taking a professional development course/program in the future?

Figure 3 – Level of interest in PD by age (mean scores, in which 1 = Not at all interested and 5 = Extremely interested)

Question: How interested are you in taking a professional development course/program in the future?

Interest in professional development programming by institution type

When we broke these results down by institution type, we found that college staff were more likely than university staff to say that they were “Extremely interested” in pursuing professional development courses or programming by a statistically significant margin. University professionals were also more likely to say that they were “Not at all interested” in such programming, although it should be noted that the overall percentage of those from universities who indicated this was still extremely low at 6%.

Figure 4 – Level of interest in PD by institution type

Figure 4 – Level of interest in PD by institution type

In a similar vein, academic staff were significantly more likely to say they were “Not at all interested” in future professional development compared to administrative staff, although the overall number of academic staff who indicated this was still extremely low at 5%.

Figure 5 – Level of interest in PD by job type

Figure 5 – Level of interest in PD by job type

How do they like to hear about PD opportunities?

Next, we asked Canada’s higher ed professionals about how they liked to learn about new professional development opportunities. The majority said they prefer to hear about professional development opportunities via email, while about half indicated that they liked e-newsletters. Social media and LinkedIn garnered lower levels of preference.

Figure 6 - Preferred mode of learning about PD opportunities   Question: How do you prefer to hear about professional development opportunities?

Figure 6 - Preferred mode of learning about PD opportunities

Question: How do you prefer to hear about professional development opportunities?

When we broke these results down by institution type, we found that college professionals were significantly more likely than university professionals to say that they preferred to receive e-newsletters regarding professional development opportunities.

Figure 7 – Preferred mode of learning about PD opportunities (by institution type)   Question: How do you prefer to hear about professional development opportunities?

Figure 7 – Preferred mode of learning about PD opportunities (by institution type)

Question: How do you prefer to hear about professional development opportunities?

Similarly, administrative staff were more likely to indicate they preferred e-newsletters compared to academic staff.

Figure 8 - Preferred mode of learning about PD opportunities (by job type)   Question: How do you prefer to hear about professional development opportunities?

Figure 8 - Preferred mode of learning about PD opportunities (by job type)

Question: How do you prefer to hear about professional development opportunities?

Overall, these results give good reason for optimism about the engagement of Canada’s higher ed professionals, both in the sense that so many indicated an interest in future professional development, and in the fact that so many gave their time to be a part of this study. Academica Group would like to thank all of the higher ed professionals across the country who participated in this survey. We look forward to conducting more surveys in the future and sharing the results with Canada’s higher ed community, and to working together to move higher ed forward.

At Academica Group, we’re proud to work with hundreds of committed, passionate higher ed professionals who want to drive improvement at their institutions. By providing enhanced research capacity and expert guidance, we allow these professionals to work beyond resource limitations and seize more opportunities to positively impact the lives of their students, colleagues, and campus communities.

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