SR SSD 2000-14

Technical Attachment

Professional Development at WFO Tulsa
Steven A. Amburn, SOO
WFO Tulsa, OK

1. Introduction

In October 1998, WFO Tulsa implemented a different Professional Development (PD) program in an effort to simplify the effort for both management and staff. The system is patterned after those used in other professions (teaching, legal, medical, etc), in that it requires a minimum number of hours of continuing education and training to be completed each year. The Tulsa plan assigns a value to the assortment of professional development possibilities available and allows forecasters to select those they wish to complete. However, a few mandatory professional development tasks which are of particular importance are generally included each year.

Experience over the last two and a half years indicate the program to be successful. Forecasters find it easy to understand, and they seem to appreciate its flexibility which allows them to generally select most of their professional development tasks. This shifts much of the burden of professional development to the forecasters, allowing the Science and Operations Officer (SOO) to be primarily a facilitator. Managing the program is easier, as it is the responsibility of each forecaster to advise the SOO of training or other PD tasks he or she completes. Finally, this program helps the MIC easily assess professional development accomplishments for each forecaster's performance evaluation.

2. The Program

The Tulsa PD program is based on the concept that professional development is a continual process which is managed and directed by the SOO and MIC, but is the responsibility of the individual forecaster. Some minimum amount of professional development is required each year in an effort to maintain proficiency and to remain current on the variety of job related subjects, and forecast/warning techniques. Specific professional development efforts are assigned "credit-hours" not only for their relative difficulty or time required to complete, but also to encourage professional development in specific areas.

The MIC and SOO decide how many credit-hours will be required in a performance year. A "Professional Development List" (FY2000 example attached) summarizing requirements and electives is provided to each forecaster. The bulk of the PD requirements are electives, which are left to the discretion of the forecaster. However, requirements can be customized to meet individual forecaster needs. Both requirements and electives can include everything from COMET modules and residence courses to local seminars, reading lists, written articles for publication, and even directed self-study.

Assigning values to the different professional development possibilities was arbitrary, but was based on the relative difficulty of tasks. For example, a completed COMET module may be worth 10 credit-hours, where reading a technical attachment is valued at only one credit-hour. However, a semester-long class at a local college or university is worth 15 times the number of accredited college hours, making a 3-hour class worth 45 PD credit-hours.

The obvious advantage to managers is the program's simplicity. The SOO is not required to customize a comprehensive training plan each year for every forecaster. The primary burden of on-going professional development is shifted to the forecaster. Also, at anytime during the performance year, the program can be adjusted to add important training that may not have been available at the beginning of the year.

3. Past and Present

The Tulsa PD Program began in FY98, when 40 PD credits were required. That "bar" was raised to 50 PD credits in FY99 and 60 PD credits in FY2000. The apparent ease at which forecasters are able to complete the required credits may be attributable not only to the clearly defined goals, but also to the greater effort of forecasters to see their professional development recorded. The following paragraphs indicate the amount and type of professional development tasks accomplished at Tulsa. Since not all COMET modules take 10 hours to complete, and not all refereed journals articles take 3 hours to read, the credit-hours earned in these areas do not reflect the actual number of hours spent in professional development. In this section, adjustments have been made to more accurately indicate the approximate number of hours spent on professional development tasks.

In FY98, forecasters had accumulated credit-hours ranging from 40 to 117 per forecaster. The staff completed 48 COMET, OSF and NWSTC CBT or web based modules totaling about 340 staff hours. Technical on-site training accounted for 117 hours, while off-site training totaled 260 hours and included community college courses, COMET and NWSTC training. Reading journals and conference pre-prints accounted for 168 hours of professional development. Another 35 hours were earned in researching and writing 3 articles for publication as pre-prints. In all, approximately 920 hours were used in professional development by 13 forecasters and 3 managers for an average of 57.5 hours per person.

In FY99, 50 PD credit-hours were required, with a final range in accumulated credits of 52 to 114 hours per forecaster. There were 236 staff hours of teletraining, seminars and other on-site technical training. Off-site, there were 335 hours of miscellaneous training, including COMET courses and community college courses. Forty-six COMET, NWSTC, and other CBT or web based modules were completed, accounting for 195 hours of training. There were an estimated 90 hours spent reading 75 articles from refereed journals, technical memoranda, and conference pre-prints. In addition, there were 7 articles written for conference pre-prints, and one published as a technical memorandum, with total credits of 163 hours. In all, 16 meteorologists completed approximately 1019 hours of professional development at WFO Tulsa, for an average of 63.7 hours per person.

In FY 2000, 60 credits are required. Through April 2000, 715 credit-hours had already been accumulated, suggesting that well over 1000 hours of professional development will be accomplished during the year.

4. Summary

The professional development program at WFO Tulsa provides forecasters maximum flexibility to accomplish on-going training and other professional development tasks, primarily of their choice. The program is similar to that in other professions, e.g. education, law, medicine, where annual requirements must be met to retain some kind of accreditation. The Tulsa program also simplifies the accounting process, and establishes easily understood goals and expectations for each staff member. The program clearly defines responsibilities, thereby encouraging staff to seek training and other professional development opportunities on their own and report those accomplishments to management. Of course, top management support and encouragement for staff professional development is paramount.

Professional Development Plan, FY2000

Requirement: Compete the number of professional development credits as determined by the

MIC and SOO. The University Assignment Program (20/20 or full time) is not included.

How: In addition to the required professional development items, select and complete enough additional items from the electives list to total 60 credit-hours or more.

Review: With the SOO, review your list as necessary. Adjustments or special considerations can be made at any time.

Miscellaneous: "Bonus" hours may be offered for high priority training.

Professional Development List

Required: Credit-hours

An MCS Matrix (v. 1.0) - 10 hours
Mesoscale Convective Systems: Squall Lines and
Bow Echoes (v. 3.0) - 10 hours


Fully accredited college level courses - # credit hours x 15
Community college or other short courses - # hours in class / 2
COMET module - 10 hours
COMET residence courses - # days training x 8
NWSTC remote/correspondence modules - 5-10 hours
NWSTC residence courses - # days training x 8
Teletraining courses - # hours in class
Seminar/Conference attendance - # hours in attendance


Refereed journal article - 3 hours
Postprints/preprints/tech attachments - 1 hour
Technical memorandum - 2 hours
Written article review - 1 hour

Written publication for:

A refereed journal - 30 hours
A postprint/preprint and presentations - 20 hours
A technical memorandum - 15 hours
A technical attachment - 5 - 10 hours*
A local case study - 5 - 10 hours*
Directed self-study - 5 - 10 hours*

* Number of hours depends on complexity and comprehensiveness.