I’m Ryan Watkins and I am an associate professor at George Washington University. Among other things, I maintain the needs assessment resource website Gap In Results. My topic today is how I remain current with research and practice in the many fields associated with needs assessment.
- Start a Virtual Book Club. Book clubs help me to stay motivated to continually read the latest literature, and starting a club is simple. My club meets four times a year.
- We use Freeconferencecall.com to host calls since their service is free and downloadable MP3 recordings are available to share with those who cannot attend.
- To manage the group, I use a spreadsheet on Google Docs to maintain the participant list and track potential books that the members of club might enjoy.
- We also use free Doodle polls to (a) select the books (I limit the choice to four or five and then the members select their preference) and (b) schedule times when the most members can join the book discussion. Based on this same model a graduate student at another university also started an “articles club” to read and discuss six research articles each year.
- Create a Personal Learning Network. In today’s world, finding all of the latest information on research and practice is too much for any one person. I found six colleagues around the globe who are interested in the topics that I find most valuable and we agreed to simply share articles, books, blog postings, and other things that we are reading. We agreed that when you receive an email recommending a valuable resource that there is no pressure to reply or comment, we are just sharing what we find (not starting dialogues, though if individual members want to discuss resources they are more than welcome to without copying everyone in group).
- Routinely Review Journals and Magazines. There are numerous publications on most every topic these days, and it is hard to keep up with all the information that is available. Once a year, however, I review the Table of Contents from each issue of many publications in order to identify potential articles that will be of interest. My current list of journals and magazines is around 35, but you can start with just 5 or 10 that are of the most interest to you. Most publishers provide the Table of Contents from each issue on their website, and from there you can read the abstracts. You can also subscribe to RSS feeds that will push the contents of issue to your email every month if that is preferred, though I recommend setting up a separate email account for storing all the emails.
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