Training and continuous professional development (CPD) in public engagement is one of nine core strands of work to embed a positive culture of public engagement with research at universities. However, research has highlighted that these opportunities also act as a potential barrier to engagement through a perceived lack of availability or relevance of the training on offer (The State of Play: Public Engagement with Research in UK Universities).
ChallengeCPD@Bath (2017-2019) aimed to investigate the take-up and impact of training and CPD opportunities in public engagement and was funded by UK Research and Innovation as part of the Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research call.
Over the course of the two-year project, we critically examined our training and professional development for public engagement with research. In year one we looked across the literature and assembled an Advisory Group of critical friends made up of academic staff from the University of Bath and beyond and providers of public engagement training.
Learning from this examination is available in Featherstone, H. and Owen D. (2018) Continuous Professional Development for Public Engagement. University of Bath
Key points about training and professional development from this work informed the development and delivery of activities in year two. This included:
What we found out
Through our ChallengeCPD@Bath work we identified four key learning points about training and professional development for public engagement:
the issues associated with professional development for public engagement are not unique to public engagement training – there is a wider culture of resistance to formal professional development within universities which disadvantages CPD for public engagement
professional development is more than just training - people are less tuned into training opportunities in general and perhaps have a limited view of what counts as training as a result of the culture around CPD at universities. This means significant interventions may not be reported as ‘training’ in surveys such as Factors Affecting Public Engagement survey
it’s about the learner, not the intervention - we need to put the learner first in our training interventions through involvement in developing activities, assessing and surfacing their existing skills, knowledge and behaviours from other non-public engagement work, and evaluating the impact of the intervention on their broader professional development and career aspirations
learning can take time to be realised - evaluation of professional development should not primarily be about the intervention but about the benefits the learner has derived from the experience. We need to take a longer term approach to evaluating an intervention to fully understand the impact of those opportunities.
Impacts on our training and professional development offer
The insight from the project has helped the Public Engagement Unit reshape the way we think about professional development for public engagement. We applied this analysis to: improve the quality of provision, develop guidance and inform the development of new forms of training and CPD. We now frame all our activities, from our Engage Grants to our one-to-one help/advice/guidance, more overtly as opportunities for researchers to learn about public engagement.
ChallengeCPD@Bath project report
The approach and key findings from ChallengeCPD@Bath our outlined in more detail in the ChallengeCPD@Bath Project Report.