This year, Diana Abath, a long-time CMPP instructor, completed her doctoral studies. We wanted to share a bit more about Diana’s own education path has influenced her instructional approach within our program.
Q1: What drew you to instructing online within the Career Management Professional Program (CMPP)?
Drs. Roberta Neault and Deirdre Pickerell of Life Strategies were my instructors in 2010 when I was a student in the Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF-US) online training program of the National Employment Counseling Association (NECA). Although I had been an online learner for 10 years with many years of professional expertise as a career development and employment practitioner (CEP), the GCDF-US was the first actual formal training in my field I’d ever experienced. Roberta and Deirdre brought the curriculum to life with such concrete relevance, honesty, openness, and respectful caring; engaging the class as peers as well as imparting their own wealth of professional wisdom and experience of our field through rich stories. This was how I’d always believed training should be and thus, trained others, but hadn’t found many “kindred spirits” until then, so I just “knew” I wanted to work with them. Once I completed GCDF-US instructor training and taught for a year in the same GCDF-US program from which I’d graduated, I felt ready to move forward with more in-depth career management courses and instructional responsibilities. Having also researched Life Strategies and the CMPP during that time, I knew both fit the bill for me. It was a true blessing that both Roberta and Deirdre agreed when I approached them about instructing, welcoming me with open arms!
Q2: Why did you choose to complete a PhD?
That’s a big question to me with so many answers! However, I think “it” chose me long ago, as my GCDF-US capstone under Roberta and Deirdre proved the impetus for my doctoral vision, actually: An advanced GCDF training program that addressed the attrition and isolation which low-income rural women face in obtaining suitable job training to maintain sustainable employment and the lack of available and accessible competency-based training for career and employment staff and practitioners designated to serve this increasingly diverse population.
After 15 years of field experience and master’s degrees dedicated to researching the job readiness and preparedness needs of my own professional community of career development and employment practitioners, I kept returning to my GCDF-US capstone. I wanted to research how my own online learning and teaching experiences as an instructor and student of the same GCDF-US curriculum I’d graduated from and taught could be used to identify any perceived gaps that could inform course and curricular revisions to that end. As Gandhi said: “You need to be the change you want to see,” right?
Q3: How will you incorporate what you’ve learned into your role as a CMPP instructor?
I am always incorporating any and all learning I engage in my work as a CMPP instructor. My graduate and doctoral studies encompassed the areas of adult education, career workforce education and program development, competency-based training, online education and instructional design, and professional development in cultural and social justice competency. The wide breath of courses I’ve taught in the CMPP from career theory to understanding diverse populations to ethics to developing career programs, services, and courses and many more have allowed me to infuse relevant theories, concepts, and resources from many of those subject areas for my students to explore. This primarily occurs in our online forum discussions where I can inject questions that deepen our original prompts. I especially look for and find themes that emerge from students as invaluable towards helping us all view our course topics from multiple perspectives. Instructors as course developers and pursuing instructional design and technology strongly emerged for me, so I look forward to expanding my CMPP instructor role to include those activities whenever the opportunity arises.
Q4: How was being a student different than instructor?
I immensely love learning, teaching, and researching, so I’m not sure I even consciously separate the two! As simultaneously both graduate student and CMPP instructor for the last 5 years, one aspect that does come to mind is that I am became increasingly more compassionate and flexible concerning deadlines, assignments, feedback, etc. I’ve experienced times when I was negotiating assignment submissions with my professors as my own students were doing likewise with me. I’ve received instructor feedback on a paper I’d thought I’d aced but didn’t while having to relay similar feedback to a student of mine. For me, both roles require my ability to make the subject matter relevant for use in reality.
Q5: What tips or strategies would you share with our students?
Tips I find important to offer include: First, be present to your own professional development. It is so salient how we development ourselves for our work and role as CEPs—our commitment, disposition, and perspective as individuals and their affect in the learning environment. Second, don’t compare yourself to others—know that your experiences, thoughts, and expertise regardless of level is valuable to the learning community you choose to be a part of. I have seen students new to the career employment field or a particular topic in a course completely discount their ability to contribute before even making one. I tell students to comparatively talk about what they do know in terms of what they are learning in the particular course. Don’t know career theory because you’ve worked in HR? So share a HR theory akin to Pickerell & Neault’s Career Engagement theory! Lastly, I suggest students keep an open mind about the learning process. To realize that when taking Life Strategies’ courses you (and often your employer) are making an investment in you uncovering your best to serve your clients, organization, and ultimately yourself as a lifelong learner and practitioner—they do go hand-in-hand!