About Professional Development
Professional development programs target many specific outcomes including increased staff knowledge about child and adolescent development, use of effective strategies for activity programming and implementation of methods for promoting positive relationships with youth.
Many professional development initiatives also have the secondary goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the out-of-school time workforce by increasing providers’ marketable skills and by garnering public support for the youth development field.
Professional development settings include:
- Higher education, such as continuing education courses and degree programs.
- Pre-service training and new-staff orientation.
- In-service training provided by programs to current staff.
- Training seminars and resource centers provided by external organizations outside the program setting.
- Local and national credentialing systems and programs.
- Local and national conferences.
- Mentoring programs.
- Ongoing informal resources such as newsletters, online discussion boards and “brown bag” lunches for staff members to share ideas and expertise.
Consider the following when planning, preparing and choosing professional development opportunities:
- Cost and investment.
- Assessing staff needs and interests.
- Creating incentives for professional development.
- Assessing professional development impact.
Professional development design is most effective when it is:
- Rooted in adult learning theory: explaining why learning is necessary and content is valuable, treating participants as agents of their own learning and incorporating participants’ pre-existing knowledge and experiences.
- Informed by afterschool professionals’ competency frameworks.
- Linked to education and/or school-age childcare regulatory requirements.
- Aligned with a quality framework.
- Informed by research and evidence-based practice.
- Adapted to trends, community contexts and current events as needed.
- Supporting a culture of continuous improvement for all engaged in learning.
- Directly relevant to practice.
- Coupled with adequate resources, such as materials and time for integration of new learning into practice.
Strategies to Support Professional Development
Afterschool providers can best support professional development by:
- Incorporating professional development expectations in staff recruitment practices.
- Coaching staff members after professional development has occurred to monitor and support implementation of new ideas and skills.
- Offering regular professional development that is an integrated part of staff members’ jobs.
- Supporting staff to seek and engage in professional development relevant to their jobs and interests.
- Having clearly articulated criteria through which they judge the quality of professional development both before and after engaging a professional development provider.