Darlene M. Van Tiem, CPT, CPLP, PhD, associate professor emeritus and coordinator of Performance Improvement and Instructional Design, School of Education, University of Michigan – Dearborn. She is part time faculty (dissertation mentor and comprehensive exam reader), Capella University, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Previously, Human Resource Development Training Director, at AT&T (Ameritech) Yellow Pages (responsible for Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin); Curriculum Manager for General Motors Technical Curriculum, including training GM suppliers, through General Physics Corporation.

Darlene is co-editor of the Performance Improvement Journal of the International Society of Performance Improvement. She is an ISPI international past president and was on the ISPI international board of directors for five years. As lead author with Jim Moseley and Joan Dessinger, she recently published the 3rd edition of Fundamentals of Performance Improvementthrough Wiley and ISPI including online resource materials. In addition, she was the lead author of two international and chapter award winning ISPI companion books: Fundamentals of Performance Technology: A Guide to Improving People, Process, and Performance (second edition) andPerformance Improvement Interventions: Enhancing People and Performance through Performance Technology. For the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Darlene was past-president of Greater Detroit Chapter and former chair and director of the National Technical and Skills Professional Practice Area. She received the ASTD National Technical Trainer of the Year and National Excellence in Leadership awards. She has published over 50 professional articles and book chapters and over 45 juried and 20 invited presentations. In addition, Darlene provided 38 articles as the Human Performance Improvement field editor for ASTD Links.

Degrees include B.A., M.S.A., M.Ed., M.A., and Ph.D. She has certificates in Manufacturing and Production Management, Organizational Engineering, Learning Disabilities, Reading, and Educational Administration at the Building and Central Office levels. She can be reached at dvt@umich.edu.

How when and how did you become a member of ISPI and what chapter are you a part of?
I became a member of the Michigan Chapter in 1980s. I was earning my PhD from Wayne State University and the professors recommended that we become active in ISPI. They also required attending one meeting as a course requirement. The intensity of the commitment of the Michigan Chapter members to their work was so memorable. ISPI has always been a strong link between research and practice, even at the local chapter level. Local chapters enable a community to develop “bench strength” or a robust region community of practice. Many projects require the winning bidder to hire consultants and instructional designers. Having a highly qualified professional community means that employers receive ethical and outstanding service and products.

I became active at the international level in October 1996. This was one month after I became an assistant professor in the Performance Improvement and Instructional Design program at the University of Michigan–Dearborn. The Performance Improvement journal contained articles that matched evidence with practice and provided important readings for course assignments. Performance Improvement Quarterly provided research evidence on which to base performance improvement decisions. Beginning in 2000, I participated in the International Annual Conferences, with approximately one to three presentations at each event.

What was your first performance improvement–related job?
This is an interesting concept. All jobs have elements of performance improvement. We say that performance improvement includes communications, education, organizational development, instructional design, technology, psychology, ergonomics, business, and many more disciplines. Performance improvement, for me, begins when a job includes substantial involvement with improvement projects.

My first teaching job included many improvement efforts associated with Michigan State University. I taught inner-city elementary in the 1960s, making dramatic learning progress. The school had the lowest income and yet the median results on the school district’s achievement tests, which is still remarkable even today. Then, I was on the faculty and director of the Learning Skills Center at Marygrove College, accomplishing 2.6 years improvement every 15 weeks in a complex, intense program that included testing, tutoring, and coaching. (The standard at the time was one year improvement every 15 weeks.)

Or would it be the first job with a more official title, such as curriculum manager for General Motors Technical Training North America (supplied by General Physics Corporation)? Or would we say, HRD training director for four states for Ameritech (now AT&T)? I am sure that I was in the field when I was an associate professor of Performance Improvement and Instructional Design at University of Michigan–Dearborn.

Often people say that they are not “really in the field,” but I believe that anyone who is applying the principles of performance improvement is “in the field.” Our list of Certified Performance Technologists is testament to our inclusiveness.

Which college(s) did you attend and which program(s)?
This is a great question because until quite recently there were no programs that directly apply to performance improvement. However, we are a field that draws from many disciplines, so almost any degree would be appropriate.

Albion College, Albion, Michigan–Education
Marygrove College, Detroit, Michigan–Reading Education
Marygrove College, Detroit, Michigan–Learning Disabilities
Marygrove College, Detroit, Michigan–School Administration (Building and Central Office)
Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan–Adult Education with cognates in Psychology and Instructional Technology
Central Michigan University, Troy, Michigan–Business / Human Resources

What company are you currently associated with and what is your title (please include company web site)?

  1. University of Michigan–Dearborn, Michigan, Associate Professor Emerita, www.umd.umich.edu
  2. Capella University, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Part-Time Faculty, www.capella.edu

What is on your performance improvement bookshelf?
Most prominently on the shelf is the new Fundamentals of Performance Improvement: Optimizing Results through People, Process, and Organizations, 3rd edition, by Van Tiem, Moseley, and Dessinger and published by Pfeiffer.

List a few of your hobbies or passion.
In St. Augustine, Florida, we live in the oldest continuous occupied city (circa 1565) in the United States with its wonderful history and beauty. We ballroom dance, exercise, and swim, and are outdoors much of the time. In Michigan, we live right on Lake Huron in a condo at the water’s edge. We love to watch sailboats, freighters, and seagulls, and swim and walk the beach. I also enjoy writing and editing ISPI’s Performance Improvement journal. I mentor dissertation students at Capella and grade comprehensive exams. Life is full and pleasant–I guess my passion is being active and enjoying life.

How did you get into the performance improvement field?
We all have a unique way of getting to performance improvement; we all come from such diverse backgrounds. I had a father who was an automobile body design engineer for Chrysler Corporation. An engineer’s lifeblood is continuous improvement. Whatever came up in life, Dad would help us think through the situation (desired, current, and gap analysis), then verify that our idea would work (cause analysis), figure out how to make it happen (implementation), and then, finally, figure out if the desired outcome happened (evaluation). This set of steps applied to science projects, Girl Scout projects, hobbies and interests, travel and camping planning, and life’s personal challenges. So, I seamlessly applied this same thinking to sorority projects or college projects independently. I have spent a lifetime analyzing and noticing improvements and then going for more improvements. As many ISPI members have declared, performance improvement principles apply broadly to life.

Is there any advice you would give to a student or recently graduated student?
Communities of practice are so important. Performance improvement means working with others. We partner with internal clients to accomplish their expectations. We partner with our professional colleagues to accomplish the expectations of internal clients. While in school, it is relatively easy to keep up with the latest ideas and easy to learn about results by listening to the project presentations, lectures, and discussions of classmates.

After graduation, it is best to form informal communities of practice through networking with former classmates or new people you meet along your professional experiences. If you live near an ISPI or similar professional chapter, the meetings and the networking are perfect. In fact, it is always best to be on a professional society committee to get to know people well enough so that they can serve as informal mentors. There are also virtual chapters (and more can be formed) plus social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, etc.). They can challenge your thinking by the interactions and point of view of the other participants.

Some graduates get jobs in training and performance improvement companies, which are always challenging and encourage self-development though project work. Some graduates will be hired by large companies or large government or nonprofit organizations with more than one trainer or performance consultant, leading to collaboration or stimulating discussion of approaches. Some graduates are hired as training or performance generalists and often they are the only person doing that job at a location. This means that graduates still need to develop their own ways of networking to keep up to date due to the isolation from others from the same or similar fields.

Finally, a professional association, such as ISPI, is only as strong as the members who appreciate the value and get involved. The more we put in, the more we get out. The old saying still applies, “What goes around comes around.”