Final Blog Post: HRD Reconsidered

Anytime a colleague, friend, or neighbor asked what class I was taking this semester, I eagerly answered “Human Resource Development” followed by “and I love it!” Never before have I taken a course that was so relevant to what I do – from performance management to learning and development models,  I have taken away so much that will positively change the way I perform, learn, and analyze myself as a worker, team member, and leader. Each reading and class discussion made me want to be in the field and actively engaged in development at both a micro and macro level. As a result of this course, I narrowed down my professional goals and applied to the graduate program in Adult Education. The course also helped me see a greater connection between HRD and academic advising in higher ed. The class supported the School of Ed’s learning-center model. Dr. Hurst facilitated discussion and it was those class discussions – hearing from those in other industries or from other countries – that widened my scope of knowledge and allowed me to learn.

When I felt most engaged in the learning experience and why.

I felt most engaged in the course when we were discussing Theory X and Y. Maybe it was because of the paper assignment, but I found myself continually referring back to McGregor and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For example, our discussion on rethinking organizational development and involving Weisbord’s whole systems theory spoke to McGregor’s Theory X and Y. Likewise, Swanson’s chapters on learning versus performance paradigms in HRD made me think of Theory X and Y in 21st century workplaces.

I also enjoyed learning from those in the HRD field, especially Kevin Bruny’s presentation on corporate universities in Chesterfield County. I’m still amazed at the university model in local government. I never knew what a learning management system was until I took this class. The course gave me the opportunity to understand perspectives from both scholars and practitioners.  As a result of this course, I try to see areas for learning and organizational development at VCU and specifically within my own department. I recognize development efforts in my department, such as emails about a “Climate Survey” or 360 performance reviews of our directors. I never connected those efforts to HRD and am now a willing participator in engagement initiatives. I agree with Weisbord that the whole system needs to be at the table in order for effective change to take place.

When I felt most distanced from the learning experience and why.

I never felt distanced from the learning experience to be perfectly honest. Every aspect of this course material was relevant to what I do and what I hope to do professionally.  There were times that the Swanson readings were hard to digest because of all the theories and broad definitions, but the second we applied it to a situation in class or “broke down” the charts in class, I was engaged and eager to learn more.

What I learned about myself that can be applied to my life and why.

I learned that I actually am an HRD professional (not in official title, but in informal, practical ways). If you agree with Swanson and Holton’s (2009) broad definition of HRD, “unleashing and developing human potential,” then I practice HRD every day at VCU with my advisees (pg. 3). My department uses a performance management model to retain top talent at VCU. I learned that I identify, measure, and develop the performance of individual students in order to align them with the School of Business and VCU’s organizational mission and goals. I do this through individual meetings, formal classroom training, and web-based instruction. We use one learning management system for students called Blackboard, Inc. where students can find my organizational page with links to campus resources, academic policy information, and helpful study guides/test taking strategies. This is very similar to a unified learning management system in place at Capital One called Pulse, Inc. I learned about the similarity through my HRD interview with Sarah Wilkinson, Learning Manager at Capital One University. I learned that I assist students in developing an individual development plan (IDP) in our meetings that document the students’ goals and promote self-development.

Conversely, I learned that employees do not operate under a performance management model in my department. I realized that our leadership put more energy into advising and retaining our students than they do into developing and retaining their employees. I see a developmental gap in my department where the student/customer/stakeholder’s needs are more important than the employees’ needs. I feel as though my department could implement some HRD strategies to help address our professional growth and development. For instance, I just finished participating in a textbook review committee. At the end of our meeting, we all felt as though some formal or informal training on learning-centered or student-centered teaching and instruction would help us as advisors be better prepared in the classroom and engage our students. I serve a unique role in that I’m both a teacher and advisor to my students. I would never have had this type of clarity or initiative if I had not taken this course.

How I judge my best work (criteria) and why.

I judge my best work if I answered all the questions thoughtfully and thoroughly – drawing upon my own thoughts and scholarly research. I am an analytical person (which could be the historian in me) so I truly try and analyze a question from all angles. If I’ve done that, I feel as though I’ve done my best. In this class, I also try to show up prepared to class having done the readings and made notes. I feel as though I perform at my best when I can openly contribute to the class discussion and apply it to my own work and life.

If I were to select the one single thing that represents my best work in the course at this moment, it would be Theory X and Y paper because I spent the most time on it.  Based on my criteria previously discussed, I feel as though I approached that paper from every angle and answered each question as thoroughly as possible – even bringing in other literature that I read on the side for fun.  A close second would be my part of the group project on understanding and managing generational diversity in the 21st century workplace because I updated my skills and techniques in the process. As I continue to work with others from different generations, I ask myself what behaviors, attitudes, and expectations does he or she bring to the workplace and how can that influence the way I communicate (Raines, 2013).

Additional personal learning needs that I have identified as a result of the learning experience and how I will go about meeting them (personal learning strategies.)  

I enrolled in this course as a way to learn more about HRD as a possible career path, and I end the semester feeling re-energized in my current role. I’m more excited than I’ve ever been to plan my syllabus for the 1-credit courses I teach in the fall. I want to practice some of the training and development techniques and the ADDIE model in my classes this fall. I also want to incorporate experiential learning models that were used in this class. I eventually want to work with an older adult population and turn my attention toward employee development as a long term career goal, but I view my current experience in student engagement initiatives, curriculum design, and cross-collaboration as a way to begin implementing HRD principles now and into the future.

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