Masters, M. D., & Sedlacek, W. E.  (1982).  Evaluation of a staff development exercise.

  Journal of College Student Personnel, 23, 352‑353.



An Evaluation of Staff Development Through Attendance at the

ACPA Conventions


Michael D. Masters

Counseling Center

University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland


William E. Sedlacek

Counseling Center

University of Maryland

College Park, Maryland


Conventions are often taken for granted as part of professional activity without considering their potential for professional development. A description of the experience of one agency's staff in planning for, attending, and evaluating the 1980 and 1981 ACPA Conventions in Boston and Cincinnati are reported here.


The Counseling Center research staff at the University of Maryland, College Park, consisted of two full-time staff (one doctoral and one master's level) and seven graduate research assistants with master's degrees working on doctorates. Eight staff members had previously attended a national convention. Five program proposals were developed, submitted, and accepted for presentation at the 1980-1981 national conventions. All nine staff members made 'one or more presentations. In addition to the cooperative planning involved, staff meeting time was devoted to "dress rehearsals" for each of the programs, which included detailed critical appraisal by the staff audience.


A systematic effort to-explore all aspects of a convention increased the likelihood that the evaluations were based on broad experience and that the experience would be cost effective.


Participating in the group effort was seen as being both instrumental to the staff members actually making a presentation at ACPA and as a worthwhile use of staff time. Overall, staff members strongly agreed that this professional development exercise and the accompanying financial support were the major contributing factors, both in their attending ACPA and in making their presentations. The staff also noted that they preferred the collaborative efforts of the experience to doing it on their own. All nine participants believed that they participated in a greater variety of convention activities than they would have without the experience of planning and thinking about those aspects beforehand.


In evaluating the various parts of the experience, participants agreed that "debugging" their presentations with members of their presentation team, working on their presentations in staff meetings, and giving a dress rehearsal in staff meetings were all helpful to them, and that the entire organized effort was worth the time and energy expended and was worth repeating in the future. They also believed that through this experience they had learned a great deal about the process of working up a convention presentation, writing a proposal for a convention presentation, and presenting a good program.


All staff-.members strongly agreed that without the organized effort they would not have done as much preplanning for the convention. When asked their most important reason for attending the ACPA convention, nearly all staff members listed their own professional development as a program presenter. Other reasons considered important were to socialize with friends and to represent one's counseling center research staff. The least important reason for attendance was to get information from exhibitors and publishers.


On the average, at each convention a staff member attended six programs, made three new

and renewed four old professional contacts, and made three new and renewed three old social contacts.


In terms of evaluating the ACPA convention itself, the staff rated ahem as only average in terms of quality, the overall level of program presentations (style and preparedness), the overall content of the programs, and the convention as a whole experience (i.e., a rating of three on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from poor to excellent). Some changes recommended for future conventions included: more moderate prices overall; scheduling free time throughout the day; more emphasis on counseling in program content; higher quality of program content, preparation, and delivery; and more exhibits by publishers.