Develop and Manage Your Own Personal Professional Curriculum

Graphic of a simple curriculum model

Let's start by clarifying that discussing professional curriculum here IS NOT about obtaining quick, technical skills, topic knowledge, or short term learning. Rather, when discussing professional curriculum here IT IS intended as a long term approach to obtaining knowledge and skills with expected outcomes. Usually I suggest that my clients consider at least a 3 -5 year curriculum plan that is reviewed annually.

As a professional development coach, the initial question that I ask my clients, Why do you want to do professional development? Among the more common responses I hear: "€œI need to complete my CEU requirements."€ Usually the individual is referring to a state mandatory continuing education (MCE) state license requirement. They may also need to fulfill CE requirements to earn or maintain a certification - such as LEED. Many respond that they want to stay current within their practice. The important first question of "€œwhy"€ helps the individual better understand their own motivating factors behind pursuing professional development. It also provides direction related to curriculum content and selecting the appropriate delivery methods.

The second question that I ask is "What?"€ By coming up with the answer to what and why, it will help you to create your curriculum outline. Your curriculum should be structured to include the key elements, skills and courses that you intend to pursue. Below is a sample outline of what key elements a professional curriculum might include. (Note: You can substitute by filling in any profession below where indicated)

Core Areas: The general area of focus within the practice of .

Performance Domains: The key areas of practice in the field of including the specific aspects and activities of professional practice.

Curriculum Proficiencies: The skills and abilities needed to perform professional service. What the needs to know to perform successfully within a given area of practice.

While you are considering the elements, skills and courses consider too, your competency level in each. Will the subject and content be new to you? Are you a beginner looking for introduce and awareness material? Are you a practitioner with experience but looking for something new? Maybe you are an expert and have mastered the material and now want to compare your knowledge to your peers.

Below is a sample list of skills and related subject that an A/E/C design professional curriculum might include.

Critical Thinking: Research, data analysis.
Project Management: Project operations, project controls, project delivery.
Practice Management: Business administration: Financial, legal, HR, marketing.
Communications: Written, oral, graphics.
Professional Service: Management Administration, strategic planning, ethics, values.
Technical Skills:€“ Systems technology, BIM, auxiliary/support software.

The third question that I ask is "€œHow?" How would you prefer to acquire the knowledge or skills that will provide the professional knowledge and skills that you are seeking? The answer(s) help the individual to design and shape their own curriculum plan. There are a myriad of options available. Take into consideration of your subject competency level. Then match that to the knowledge delivery methods that that you most enjoy using, that are practical for you, and/or they are affordable. An awareness level program may be as simple as watching a YouTube video or a university open source learning module. For more in-depth knowledge try working with a mentor, a tutor or on-the-job experience. You may find that taking classes on-site, online, or a blend of the two works best for you. Or you may enjoy attending special workshops, symposiums and professional conferences.

There are several methods to track your progress. You can develop a simple spreadsheet. Some of the online education providers are now providing a tracking service if you take their courses. Many firms have a tracking system as a part of their LMS for their employees. And if the record keeping becomes too complex or you just don’t have the time, there is at least one small company that provides a records tracking service for design professionals.

As a final thought, I generally have my clients develop an action plan that addresses how they will meet and manage their curriculum plan. Consider adding this feature to your performance appraisal or having a peer review if you are a single practitioner.

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program - Introduction


For nearly three decades I have been designing and managing organization-wide professional development programs. Early on I figured that to reach high standards I should try to model my programs after some of the best in the business, so I would regularly pull ideas from different industry award program guidelines and applications. The various awards programs use buzz words and phrases like: Excellence; quality and total quality management (TQM); the customer is always right; best practices; and elite programs.

Over the years I have submitted my organizations for professional development awards. I have also served on jury’s, managed continuing education award programs, designed award programs, and trained jurors of award programs. What I discovered is that while the award applications, processes and criteria may be different depending upon who is offering the award, there are still common themes and practices between them.

Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, we created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the design industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice learning and development.

As part one of an eight part blog series I have assembled common themes from these and other prestigious organizational award programs. Not all of the awards programs are specific to learning and development but they do reflect similar core values. Since award applications, structures and terminology differ greatly I have taken this opportunity to organize the core values that we found and used to create the AIA/CES Award for Excellence. The core values listed below are generic and can apply to many professions and industries.

Common core values that address the following:
* Commitment and support €”examines the firm'€™s educational commitment and support.
* Planning and analysis €”examines the firm’s structure for analyzing the educational needs and professional development of the professional.
* Design and implementation €”examines the program(s) goal setting, learning objectives, design, and delivery methods.
* Resources and records €”examine human resources and the record-keeping process.
* Evaluation and improvement €”examines evaluation and improvement process of the education activities.
The assessment guidelines that you can view in the remaining seven installments of this blog are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for establishing and operating an Architectural/Engineering Design Firms’ professional education department. The recommendations are organized in a manner that should be used as general guidelines to establish, organize, and manage the organizational structure of the firm. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skills or professional program.

Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program – Planning and Performance Projection

Photo of staff reviewing graphs

Planning and performance projection is the critical third step to building a successful professional development program. This step should be based upon the results your needs assessments and analysis. At this point you develop measurable short and long-term educational goal with performance projections of key education results that tie into the overall business strategy. If you have not already done so at this point, be sure to develop a realistic budget that supports your project.

Continuing in part four of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for shaping and managing the organizational structure of an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms'€™ professional education department. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skill, or professional program.

KEY 3: Planning and Performance Projection

Here we examine the firm'€™s planning, support and performance projections. This section examines how the firm identifies, develops, and supports program designers and faculty. Key 3 also takes into consideration how the firm effectively collects and reports information about activities and participants.

Planning Process
1. There is an established organizational planning process leading to the implementation of learning solutions and educational programs. As appropriate this process includes on-the-job support where and when your L&D customers need it.
2. There is a process that addresses how technology supports the learning evaluated, improved, and kept current with changing business needs.
3. There is a process involving how to use key information in the determination of learning objectives for learning and knowledge sharing activities.
4. There is a short-term planning process leading to necessary adjustments of educational programming, staffing, and delivery.

Human Resources
5. There is a process to identify and involve key personnel in roles of program designers, developers, instructors and facilitators, and evaluators.
6. There is a process to train and support key personnel to serve as program designers, developers, instructors and facilitators, and evaluators.
7. There is an established process that ensures all appropriate staff is kept current of all requirements, regulations, and laws related to course content.

Performance Projection
8. There are identified metrics used to assess the effectiveness of your learning solutions that are updated annually.
9. There are short and long-term projections related to desired key education results.
10. There are short and long-term projections related to performance and/or benchmark data that can track improvement.
11. At least some of the short and long-term projections for the education program reflect measurable goals.

Program Tracking & Maintenance
12. Detailed summaries of all revenue and expenses related to the overall program are maintained and evaluated on a scheduled basis.
13. There is a process that ensures that program standards are maintained when partnering with other organizations.
14. There is a process for compensating and recognizing individuals and groups who help reach the education objectives and for those whose performance improves.
15. A process for tracking and reviewing the education program marketing results - internal and external.
16. There is a process for tracking, reviewing, and improving the program content and offering new educational activities.
17. A process is in place for recording and filing required designations for activities, such as Health, Safety and Welfare (HSW), LEED, ISO, ANSI, Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE), PDH, state license etc.

Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, a special task force created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (A/E/C) industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice learning and development.

For Associations – The third key to unlocking the secrets of quality education

For associations, the third key to developing a quality education program is planning and performance projection. For many associations, education for their members and the profession is part of the mission statement. If it is not part of the mission statement then it is critical that senior management is committed and supportive. And of course, after analyzing the results of your needs assessments, it is time to develop measurable short and long-term educational goals.

The short term goals will likely focus on courses, workshops, webinars, conferences and other content related offerings. These can be one hour, 3 days, 6 weeks or 12 months in duration. However, these offerings should all be directly interrelated to short term, overall program goals of between one to three years. Creating, changing or adjusting education programs often take at least 2 – 3 years before you begin to see the major results programmatically or financially. Individual courses may change or be adjusted quickly but entire curriculum or certificate programs need time to grow. You should have built in a continuing needs assessment process and a system that will provide you with the flexibility to make course adjustments.

You should plan long term of at least 3 -5 years for your core programs. Expect that technology; social, economic, political and education environments will change during this time period. In today’s environment the probability is that you will have to adjust your goals. Review of long term education goals should be a continual process. It is critical for both the association and the membership that education analysis occur during senior management’s annual strategic planning sessions and that the education program projections tie into the overall association mission statement and business operational plan.