Professional Curriculum: A Benefit Offered by Associations

Graph of the 3 Key Curriculum Elements

I am often asked by association education leaders and executives, how can my association compete against all of the external education providers? My reply is usually the question, why are you trying to compete?€ Associations have an advantage that no commercial business, firm or university can match -MEMBERS, lots of them. The membership usually represents every aspect of the related profession, or should come close. What a wonderful talent pool to provide answers to these questions. Associations have the opportunity to be a reliable, first source for quality education related to the profession.

Where should the association start to build their education programming? The answer, associations should rely upon their members to develop a curriculum. They can effectively create guidelines that supports the entire profession. Drilled down, detailed curriculum can also be created that support niches and sub-groups if desired.

An excellent example of what can be achieved is demonstrated by what the American Institute of Architects (AIA) achieved in 2007 and 2008. Drawing upon member volunteers representing firms, universities, and industry, along with a few staff, they created the foundation of an architect’s professional development curriculum. The curriculum was built upon three key elements. (Note: You can substitute by filling in your professional association below where indicated)

Core Areas: The general area of focus within the practice of (Fill in your profession).

Performance Domains: The key areas of practice in the field of (Fill in your profession) including the specific aspects and activities of professional practice.

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

Building upon a foundation, the committee began to fill in the curriculum topics. The team focused on the four professional core areas of design, building performance, leadership and practice. From there, they began to build out a recommended curriculum for the practice. Here are some of the skills the team agreed needed to be included for the practice of architecture.

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.

When I first started at Arup, I talked with Jeffery Beard, Ph.D. and Dee McKenna, J.D., both at the time representing the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Education and Business Development. Jeff and Dee shared with me an engineering PD curriculum with 16 core areas for development. Like the AIA, Jeff and Dee used this curriculum as a guideline for content delivered in ACEC courses and convention programming.

I shared ACEC'€™s curriculum with my L&D team at Arup. After prioritizing and adjusting the curriculum to meet our own internal needs we began to restructure our own education content. We enhanced the process by adding three competency levels, Awareness, Practitioner, and Mastery and assigning our courses to one of these competency levels.

The AIA had a seven year head start while ACEC had five years before a large design firm took advantage of the reliable information source provided by these two associations. Most external providers in the industry are still struggling in the design structure of their course offerings. Postscript. Based in part upon the foundation provided by the recommended ACEC curriculum, Arup was recognized in March as a 2014 LearningElite company in learning and development by CLO Media. Only two design firms even made the list.

Recognition: The 2007 Curriculum Sub-Committee and the Continuing Education Quality Assurance Program participants included:

Curriculum Committee and CEQAP Participants:
Mike Rodriguez, FAIA; Amy Yurko, AIA; Mike Broshar, FAIA; Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA; Jonathan Fischel, FAIA; Brenda Scheer, AIA; Mark Graham, AIA; Quentin Elliott, AIA; William Seider, AIA; Ed Vidlak, AIA; Gordon, Mills, FAIA; Marvin Malecha, FAIA; James Mitnick, PE; Robert Lopez, RA.and Leslie Nathan, AIA;

AIA Staff:
C.D. Pangallo Ed.D; Patricia Lukas, M.A.; Richard Hayes Ph.D., RAIC, AIA; Theodora Campbell-Orde; Barb Sido, ABD; Thom Lowther, Ed.S. and Daniel Bauman (AIA Intern);