Professional Development

VSA is committed to providing our members with ongoing professional development throughout their career and we are proud to offer a variety of educational and engagement opportunities. Learn more about each!

Annual Conference - Historically held the third week of July, VSA's annual conference is the key event for the Association. Holding over 20 sessions, presenting innovative and renowned speakers, and providing ample time for dialogue and networking, the three-day annual conference brings over 200 attendees together for a conversation about the field of informal learning.

Conference Workshops - Held before and after the conference, workshop leaders come from a broad range of fields to present full and half day sessions that are lively, interactive, relevant, and offer participants the opportunity to broaden their knowledge and skills in studying or enhancing the experiences of visitors, participants, and audiences.

Regional Workshops - VSA tries to host at least two workshops each year that draw together colleagues from a local community. Often building upon interesting sessions and workshops from the Annual Conference, the half and full day workshops are a more economical way to receive professional development for many members and non-members than attending the conference across the country.

Webinars - VSA and the Association of Science-Technology Centers have teamed up to provide VSA and ASTC members webinars focused on applying research and evaluation findings to various components of science center programs and projects.

In addition to these current offerings, VSA members are working to offer new ways of learning, engaging in discussion, and developing forums for various focused topics. If you are interested in learning more or helping realize any of the potential offerings below, let us know!

Focused Interest Groups (FIGs) - Initiated in December 2014, the VSA Board voted to adopt Focused Interest Groups (FIG) as part of the organizational structure. VSA FIGs are open to all current members, providing forums for sharing and cultivating common VSA member interests. FIGs are sub-groups of VSA, and their activities and activity level are dependent upon the members of each FIG. Current FIGs include:

  • Bridging Communities - This FIG aims to support VSA’s initiative of building capacity to support diversity in the field by focusing on diversity and inclusion in visitor studies, and cultural competence in evaluation and audience research. Bridging Communities will provide a forum for discussion about resources and practices, a community for collegial support, and a collective voice in the organization and field for members of diverse communities and those seeking to develop their cultural competencies and capacity in culturally-responsive evaluation methods. Email Lisa Newton or Patty Montano if you want to get involved.
  • Data Visualization and Reporting - actively using Pinterest and LinkedIn to connect members, Kate Livingston is leading this group to share cool ideas and talk about issues in visualizing data to support its use. Email Kate if you would like to get involved.
  • Zoo and Aquarium - To bring together a community of zoo/aquarium professionals who contribute to social science/audience research and evaluation at AZA accredited institutions, with a focus on interpretation, exhibit design and interactive elements, guest services, and the general non-learning aspect of guests and the guest experience (social motivation, construction of a visit, etc.). If you would like to get involved, email Nadya Bennett.

Online "Chats" - Currently being considered by a subcommittee of the Professional Development Committee, informal “chats” will provide a free forum for a small group of people to gather virtually and talk about a topic of common interest. Unlike the webinars, which are designed to appeal to a broad audience (including, but also beyond, VSA members), the “chats” are specifically aimed at VSA members. The PDC hopes to use the chats to continue compelling conversations begun at the conference throughout the year.

Dining Discussions - Beginning at the 2015 conference, VSA offers participant-led conversations over dinner. These conversations  provide informal networking and socializing opportunities for attendees who share a common interest. Attendees can propose topics of conversation for groups of up to 12 people, and conference attendees will sign up to participate during on-site registration. Topics can run the gamut from fun to serious: Books/Articles of Interest, Internal Evaluator Meet-up, Teaching Evaluation, Evaluating Sensitive Topics, or Epic Fails. Do you have a topic you would like to discuss with other like-minded souls? Send us a proposal!

We hope that you find utility in much that VSA offers, but we also want to know if you don't. Please reach out to tell us how we can better meet your needs, provide you with timely and appropriate professional development and support, and more!