Now that the somewhat chaotic nature of “back to school” is slowing down, it’s a wonderful time to take a moment and think through some meaningful ways to invest in the growth of your team over the course of the year. According to the National Staff Development Council, programs providing 30–100 hours of professional development over 6–12 months saw the largest positive impact on child outcomes. In contrast, programs providing 14 hours or fewer saw no significant effect on children’s development and learning. Making professional development a priority each year is essential when you are aiming to continuously elevate the quality of your program and promote positive child outcomes across the board.
Professional development vs. training
It’s important to note that we’re talking professional development here, not training. Training is of course necessary as new initiatives or resources are rolled out. But training serves a decidedly narrow purpose: to help teachers unpack the boxes and learn about the new “stuff,” walking them through implementation plans to make sure everyone feels confident getting started. While these in-service/training days certainly have a place, they cannot serve as a replacement for true professional development.
As its name suggests, professional development should develop your teams as professional educators who perform critical work for children, families, and society. In addition to expanding skills and experience for future career growth, it should equip, empower, inspire, challenge, and motivate your teams. And in order to do this well, it should create ongoing opportunities for individualized learning the likes of which you strive to offer the children in your care.
Developing your plan
As you look to build a robust (yet doable!) professional development plan for your program, here are some questions to consider that may help you get you started.
- What are your goals for professional development this year? Here are some topics to consider:
- Promoting positive teacher–child relationships and interactions
- Increasing mathematics and literacy opportunities incorporated throughout each day
- Strengthening the connection between curriculum and assessment
- Building stronger partnerships with families
- Enhancing supports and strategies for children who are dual-language learners
- What worked well in last year’s professional development plan? What can you build off of to keep the momentum going?
- Think about your current teaching team. What are they interested in? What frustrates them in their practice? What common obstacles are you seeing that are getting in the way of teachers’ and children’s ability to be successful?
- What subject matter experts do you already have on your team who could lead dynamic conversations on best practice? Where do you need to seek out external experts to visit your program and facilitate discussion, learning, and reflection?
“One size” fits no one well
It’s important to keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all approach” to professional development. Let’s be honest: “one size” fits no one well. Just as children do, adults learn best in highly engaging, interactive environments where the content reflects their current interests, the approach meets their needs, and the entire package is delivered in a way that is respectful of them as unique individuals, as professionals, and as caring human beings with a common goal.
At Teaching Strategies, we think of ourselves as a partner in your program’s professional development training experiences. Learn more >>