AHEAD professional development initiatives
As AHEAD approaches our 30th anniversary, planning for the future of the professional development needs of disability service professionals is front and center!
Since its inception, AHEAD has been actively involved in facilitating the professional development of its members as an avenue to the creation of more inclusive higher education environments for students with disabilities.
Professional development offerings have included the AHEAD annual Conference, workshops, information and referral services through the AHEAD office, member-to-member support, professional literature, audio-conferences, and on-line courses. These offerings for members have kept pace with the issues in our field and with the advances in technology for information dissemination.
Clearly, professional development is consistent with both AHEAD’s Mission and Strategic Plan. AHEAD is committed to continuing its emphasis on professional training and development and on pursuits to improve and enhance all its offerings.
I. The genesis of curriculum development
Going forward to strengthen the professional knowledge and skills of our members and to be a major resource for new disability service professionals, the AHEAD Board of Directors has been investigating the creation of a comprehensive professional development curriculum. The original impetus for the initiation of a comprehensive curriculum for professional training was early discussions exploring development of a professional certification program.
Whether or not certification is on the horizon, the Board has come to realize, through much feedback, research and discussion, that it is important to frame, identify and delineate the essential skills needed for successful work as a disability services professional in a postsecondary setting and to advance a curriculum intended to impart these skills. At this point and with much collaboration from the membership, we are moving forward with the development of curricula that will augment AHEAD’s current professional development offerings.
II. Investigating the possibilities of certification
Often, when extensive professional development is mentioned within AHEAD, it leads to a discussion of professional certification for those of us who work in disability services. Within the AHEAD membership there are those both committed to and opposed to professional certification.
Those who support certification cite:
- Certification would increase consistency of knowledge
- Disability services would be elevated as a recognized and respected service in postsecondary education
- Certification may lead to the possibility of greater job security, salary, and professional recognition.
Those who tend to not support certification often cite:
- Certification is not needed. The field is strong because of the strength of professionals with training in a variety of disciplines.
- The disparity of roles in a disability resource office (director, interpreter, specialist, etc.) is too great to be handled through a certification program.
- A belief that we cannot identify the essential skills that define a successful Disability Service professional because the field is so broad and has no specific knowledge base.
In Board meetings, hallway conversations and telephone calls, AHEAD members have been discussing certification for over ten years, but until recently those conversations could only conclude with agreement that the matter is extremely complicated.
The Board of Directors created an ad-hoc task force of members to research and report on issues related to the concept of a certification program for disability service professionals. This avenue is being pursued at present as a separate and distinct process from that of curriculum development.
As a member driven organization, AHEAD is reliant on the input, insights, and feedback of our membership. Please feel welcome to e-mail the AHEAD leadership to share your thoughts on professional development and/or the prospects of a potential certification program.