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RIME (Reporter, Interpreter, Manager, Educator) is a framework that is widely used in the world of medical education. Medical students are expected to progress through the four stages of RIME through their clinical years.

Can we come up with a similar framework to RIME for the alt-ac career path? 

I like the RIME framework because it contextualizes the skills that medical students must build within the healthcare environment in which they will work. RIME helps medical students understand that to perform well in their chosen profession that they must progress in how they relate to patients and other providers. 

The skills that get you into medical school (Reporter stage), are inadequate to the baseline expectations of clinical rotations (Interpreter stage). The transition from student-to-physician will require mastery of more than scientific and diagnostic skills, but also the ability to develop and execute a care plan for individual patients (Management). 

In the same way that medical students must progress in their behaviors and skills beyond scientific/diagnostic to become doctors, alternative academics need to move beyond domain/subject expertise to advance in their higher ed careers.

Most alt-acs come into the field with some specialized knowledge. They have domain level/subject matter expertise. This expertise may be in something like instructional design or assessment, or it may be in the academic discipline in which they trained in graduate school. Let’s call this first stage of the alt-ac career Domain.

Domain: Domain level / subject matter expertise.

The next stage in an alt-ac career is the ability to combine the domain knowledge that one brings to the profession, with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the tasks associated with the role. This knowledge and skills may build on the alt-ac’s existing domain knowledge, or they may be complementary to what the alt-ac already knows. 

For instance, someone with domain knowledge in an academic discipline may need to learn the fundamentals of learning science and instructional design. Or a trained instructional designer will need to learn project management, assessment, and some disciplinary theories and methods. Let’s call this second stage of the alt-ac career Integration.

Integration: Integrating domain/subject knowledge with skills/knowledge necessary to fulfill alt-ac job responsibilities. 

In this alt-ac career framework, I’m trying to stay away from the idea of “management”. Too often, career progression in alternative academia means managing people. The more direct reports one has, the further along the career path one is. This seems to be a terrible idea. Nobody I know goes into higher education to manage people. We have too many managers in higher ed. Too many levels. So I’d like to emphasize another alt-ac career path. 

The next stage I’m thinking of is the alt-ac skill of coalition building. Successful alt-acs are able to build connections and networks with colleagues across the institution. These relationships are crucial in the development of new initiatives, and the running of existing ones. 

Professional alt-ac relationships must not be restricted to within one’s college or university. Finding one’s professional community of practice across institutions is equally as important. The way alt-acs learn how to do their jobs better is to often talk with colleagues who are facing similar challenges at other institutions. Let’s call this stage Alliances.

Alliances: Build coalitions, networks, and professional communities of practice.

The final stage in an alt-ac career is that of moving, changing, and advancing the institution and the field. Advancing the institution may mean starting new or building up existing programs and initiatives at the alt-ac’s school. This work can take place inside a department, a unit, a division, or across the entire institution. At this stage, the alt-ac moves beyond seeing how the school must improve, to doing the hard work of making those ideas a reality. 

At the field or discipline level, alt-acs can advance how those across other colleges and universities think about and approach their jobs. This contribution to the broader higher ed ecosystem can happen through relationships, contributions to professional associations, social media, and scholarship. Let’s call this fourth stage Leadership.

Leadership: Advancing the institution and the field.

Combine these all together, and we get DIAL: Domain, Integration, Alliances, Leadership. 

What do you think of a DIAL framework for an alt-ac career?

Can you iterate on this framework?

Does DIAL describe your alt-ac career progression?

How do frameworks like DIAL get accepted, diffused, and adopted?

Where are you on the DIAL framework?

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