Sharpening The Saw Through Professional Development

Posted by

Many years ago, I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. In the book, Covey mentioned “sharpen the saw”, as the 7th habit. Sharpening the saw involves preserving and improving your greatest asset – You. There are many ways we should “sharpen the saw.” In this blog post, I focus on sharpening the saw professionally. Participating in professional development is one way of doing that and can be achieved through a variety of activities. I will be remiss if I don’t mention that professional development helps personal career growth, job performance, networking, as well as overall organizational success.

This month, a few of us on the Xcalibur evaluation team attended the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual conference in Chicago. This was the first in-person AERA conference after the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. The conference was well attended by educational practitioners and researchers from all over the world. Over the past 10 years, the average number of attendees at AERA annual conferences has been close to 15,000; and I am certain this year’s conference was not any different. According to the AERA website, the 2023 AERA Annual Meeting is the single largest gathering of scholars in the education research field and is a showcase for groundbreaking, innovative work in a diverse array of areas.

It was certainly an opportunity to learn from experts in the field – the conference had a lot to offer. I attended several sessions on program evaluation, mixed-method research, educator preparation and support, and postsecondary education amongst many others. The sessions were held in different hotels, so I got over 10,000 steps each day getting from session to session; and was thankful to be wearing comfortable shoes 😊. There were a few presentations that were related to GEAR UP programs – one presented by Xcalibur’s very own Director of Data Insights and Evaluation – Julie Jaramillo. Her presentation was titled, “The Effect of Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Activities on College Enrollment: A Path Model for College Enrollment’.” It would be great to see more presentations around GEAR UP in future AERA annual conferences. 

It was also an opportunity to reconnect with former colleagues and classmates and get new research ideas or refine my current ideas. The conference provided a wealth of resources and ideas that I plan to use to enhance my work as an Evaluation Specialist and better support the grants we work with.

Another highlight of the conference was attending the graduate roundtable and iPoster sessions that featured presentations from graduate students. This is particularly of significance to me because I value the opportunity for novice (not always) researchers to have the opportunity to present their research in a space like AERA and get constructive feedback. 

Overall, attending the AERA conference was a very valuable and enriching experience. I plan to utilize some of the knowledge and ideas that I learned at the conference in my work here at Xcalibur. I also intend to reach out to some of the new contacts I made and share ideas with my colleagues. It is my hope and expectation that Xcalibur is accepted to present at the 2024 Annual AERA conference which will take place in Philadelphia, PA.