Staff development is central to the quality performance of activities in any organization. In order for an institution to achieve its goals and objectives, a clear staff development plan is necessary in order to set priorities and initiate a common spirit of all the staff members. This study examines the necessity of a key staff development plan in an envision higher learning institution. The study explores the importance of staff development to the quality of higher education. Currently, many higher learning institutions do not consider the necessity of proper staffing and development as a key to quality performance. Instead, these institutions fail to achieve their goals or objectives, and consequently low quality of higher education.
Higher education institutions highly depend on people to deliver their missions and objectives. In this regard, the quality of staff and the motivation they receive from the institution's management highly influences their performance. Various studies and research findings indicate the usefulness of staff development for quality education especially in higher learning institutions. A study by the World Bank notes that, high quality and motivated teaching staff of any learning institution are necessary to excel (World Bank, 1994). The study further explains the importance of a supportive professional culture to obtaining higher performance from the staff and quality of education from these institutions. Staff development in a learning institution recognizes the need for a quality strategic plan, organizational structure, mission and vision in promoting quality of education and staff motivation. An institution without a clear mission statement is likely not to deliver expected higher performance. Lack of training facilities to the staff and poor representation in an institution's senate can also adversely affect staff development.
A professional staff development plan helps to ensure quality improvement in an institution through lying down of the mission and targets of the organization to all staff members. A staff development plan helps to define clearly the objectives and strategic plan of a learning institution. It sets out the expected performance from both teaching and non-teaching staff. A study by Hopkins & Hargreaves (1995) explains that, a proper development plan enables an institution to control itself from within and reduces external pressures. A self-managing institution with a clear staffing development is likely to obtain a better outcome compared to others without a staff development program. Staff development is not an innovation that can be imposed to an institution from outside but a conscious approach that is best handled by an institution's management.
Hopkins & Hargreaves (1994) further notes that, at its best, staff development plans help draw both the institution's staff and its partners in the creation, development and implementation of policies and missions. In this aspect, staff development plans help learning institutions to shape their values, mission and culture and to do this in a more self-conscious and explicit manner. Such a plan can boost both teaching and non-teaching morale, commitment to their work and improve communication to facilitate good teaching and learning. Staff development supports quality improvement in an institution through simplifying inspections or any other accountability systems that an institution may employ. This is so because of improved communication and coordination among departments and management to subordinate relationships. Development plan also attains quality improvement through narrowing the gap between teaching and non-teaching staff. It ensures participation and representation of all in decision-making and formulation of policies. It is easy to manage emerging changes in the institution through proper communication facilitated by a proper staff development.
Just like in business and other professions, staff in learning institutions requires continuous strengthening and motivation from their work and responsibilities. Institutions need not only to focus on the competencies of their staff but also on their commitment to achieving the missions and objectives of the institution. A sound development plan is necessary in stressing the need for employee commitment to the goals and objectives. A development plan makes effective use of the human resource in a learning institution. According to Guskey (2000), for staff development in learning institutions to be efficient, the plan must also incorporate organizational structures and culture within which the performance of the teaching staff is embedded. The structural structures may include evaluation of teaching processes, leadership practices and belief systems about learning. Without such changes, teaching and learning will be challenging in relation to the adopted development plan.
In order for development plans to deliver quality improvement, the goal should be on improvement of student learning (Guskey, 2000). The plan should press on staff accountability to the goals and missions of an institution. In order to attain improvement and quality of education in learning institutions, staff development must be continuous and supported by systematic changes that will provide organizational support for implementation of new practices. For an efficient development plan that can deliver improvement in the quality of education, several changes have to take place. The changes that relate to the structural organization of an institution that support efficient development plan are necessary. Alternative policies and extra efforts are also crucial in designing and implementing an efficient staff development plan in a higher learning institution.
Utilization of the various professional development activities and best practices in higher learning facilitate proper staff development. Development of the human resource and utilization of technology is one of the essential components of staff development. According to Stewart and Kinuthia (2010), in order to increase the effectiveness of individuals who take a role in designing, implementation and evaluation of teaching is one of the main principles of educational technology. Educational technology places emphasis on professional development in realizing the contemporary aims of higher education institutions. This enables the faculty to carry out their responsibilities such as coping with the constantly changing environment, and carrying out academic responsibilities like teaching and research. Best practices and activities in professional development are a continuous process that requires full utilization of human capabilities. In a learning institution, professional development takes place with the initiation of new departments, growing of the faculty and as the needs of the institution change.
Adoption of technology involves integration of modern technologies in teaching and learning in an institution. Integration of computer-based labs and simulations into classroom sessions or homework will provide a wider range of learning and teaching materials for both students and faculty. There is a need to provide training to faculty members from poor-technology learning environments as they move to the richer-technology environments. A research by Sorcinelli (1999) shows that, continuing faculty members also need to be updated on new technologies and approaches to teaching. This training helps to ensure that senior faculty remains vital and energized. Professional development in an institution can take place through attending meetings and workshops that aim to nature and develop individual abilities. These meetings and workshops may include national disciplinary meetings and workshops on best educational technologies. Professional activities must aim to improve teaching effectiveness in higher learning institutions. Professional development in training should seek to modify attitudes, skills and behaviors of faculty members.
Apart from adoption of technology and training as the best practices in professional training, there is also need to look at the working conditions and incentive systems employed by an institution. A motivation and compensation should be beneficial to both the staff and the institution. Concerning this fact, many institutions in the world today are abandoning universal tenure for academic staff in favor of time contracts. It is more cost effective for an institution to apply time contracts in meeting their needs for teaching skills. As a result of competition from well off private sector institutions, learning institutions have to design appropriate compensation systems that will attract the best talents and experienced staff to their institutions. Compensation packages do not only comprise of good salaries but also other non-monetary benefits such as rewards to the staff. Conducive working environment and flexible working design will attract quality staff to an institution. Rewarding and promotion of the staff based on academic excellence and performance is more efficient in improving employee motivation rather than one that is biased.
As one of the best professional activities in higher education faculty, an institution should understand the role of people and quality leadership in the institution. Level of competency in faculty staff at an institution has a considerable impact on the work and the role of each of the participants in the concerned institution. Leadership skills are essential as well as communication and persuasive skills in convincing both educational colleagues and external participants. Leadership and managerial skills are necessary for professional development as they can provide strategic guidance to where the institution is heading. Decision-making is vital for an institutional and professional development. Ability to foresee the activities and the future needs of an institution will enable the management to avoid future problems resulting from poor decision-making. A study by Mukherjee & Jasbir (1993) indicates that, quality leadership and management in a learning institution are critical to prosperity and any decision by the management can have a significant effect to both teaching…