What Is It?
Professional development is a life-long, dynamic, and evolving process. Professional development activities should incorporate adult learning principles. They should build on each other and repeat central themes and requirements of the HSPPS and your program over time and in a variety of ways. Provide an array of activities to meet individual staff members’ varied needs. Each home visitor will bring different experiences and skills to the job and will require different approaches for building and refining their skills.
The goal of all professional development activities is to provide more effective services to families with very young children. How do you evaluate the impact of your professional development activities on what you do with children and families? Both informal and formal methods—for example, parent surveys, child-level assessment, and attainment of goals in the family partnership agreement—provide useful information. Evaluation is an integral part of training and professional development; make sure to plan for it when you create individual and program training/professional development plans.
Assess home visitors’ interests, strengths, and areas of concern. You may use a survey, conversations during reflective supervision, observation using a checklist or more formal observation tool, and goals identified in their professional development plans.
Match training and other professional development experiences to the home visitors’ interests and goals. When considering group training, invite home visitors to help you plan.
Consider the following potential training topics. Add additional topics that are relevant for your program, families, and community:
- Home as a child development environment
- Child development
- School readiness for infants and toddlers
- Observation skills
- Developmental screening
- Ongoing assessment, including effective use of your program's child assessment tool
- Experiences that promote children's development/use of materials found in the home to develop experiences
- Techniques for supporting parent-child interactions
- Children with disabilities
- Nutrition and physical activity
- Safety/injury prevention
- Pregnancy and prenatal development
- Postpartum care, including maternal depression
- Mental health of young children
- Mental health of adults
- Role of the home visitor
- Culturally responsive strategies and practices for working with diverse families
- Family-centered practice (e.g., focusing on families' strengths)
- Parent education techniques
- Crisis intervention, including policies and protocols for identifying child abuse and neglect; assisting families who need food, clothing, and shelter, and other issues such as domestic violence and police presence (e.g., parents/family members getting arrested or parents/family member detained or deported because of immigration status)
- Time management and record keeping
- Home visitor safety
- Home visitor self-care
- Professional boundaries
Offer a variety of professional development opportunities, for example, monthly inservice trainings; quarterly program-wide trainings; weekly staff presentations; monthly group meetings to discuss common challenges, share resources, and explore new topics; access to professional literature; and attendance at conferences and workshops. Consider following up training by scheduling immediate home visit observations to observe how home visitors apply new knowledge and skills and to provide coaching.
Training is successful when it is strengths-based, respectful, and collaborative. Adults learn best when they feel included, appreciated, and responded to. Make sure that content shared through PowerPoint slides, handouts, discussions, and activities draws on home visitors’ knowledge and experiences and is easily understood (consider characteristics such as reading level and what languages home visitors speak and read).
Provide formal educational opportunities, including college credit. Head Start Program Performance Standard 1304.52(k)(2) states that whenever possible, academic credit should be attached to educational opportunities for staff training and development.
Some training and technical assistance (T/TA) strategies reflect adult learning principles better than others do, maximizing results. When you adopt approaches to T/TA that incorporate adult learning principles, your staff will be highly engaged and sustained program change is more likely to occur. This document lists 12 common T/TA strategies.
The webisodes in this series offer key messages and helpful resources to get staff started with the youngest children and their families. Managers can use Early Essentials to design orientation experiences or staff can participate on their own. The webisodes cover: components of quality in programs serving the youngest children; the importance of relationships; services to expectant families; the rapid growth and development of the first three years; school readiness for infants and toddlers; self care; environments; responsive interactions; and language development
Effective staff development sessions build on previous learning, connect to each participant’s professional development plans, incorporate a variety of interactive learning strategies and consider the distinct developmental characteristics of infants and toddlers. The considerations and information are useful to program managers and coordinators. Program Performance Standards are addressed within the context of infant and toddler issues.
Discover ways to support professional development for staff and supervisors around the nine relationship-based competencies. Use these self-assessments to develop required individual professional development plans. They also may be used in preparation for pre-service training, mid-year check-ins, and year-end check-ins.
Explore the importance of positive, nurturing relationships with infants, toddlers and families, even before the baby is born. As they work through the lessons, Early Head Start staff should think about how relationships are built with babies and families in their programs.
This resource is a series of lessons that focus on early development and quality services. The series contains information and opportunities for reflection and includes a Trainer's Companion manual that provides additional information and ideas for training activities.
Professional development is an important part of having an effective early childhood workforce in programs that serve young children and families. This guide will offer Head Start managers and other staff a definition and conceptual framework for early childhood professional development that will serve to ensure a highly qualified and effective staff to assist young children and their families.