Professional Development

Initial and Ongoing Training

Child sitting in the grass pointing up to the sky.How you bring new home visitors into your program sets the stage for how they work and grow within the organization. The Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS) (45 CFR §1302.92(a)) requires programs to “provide to all new staff, consultants, and volunteers an orientation that focuses on, at a minimum, the goals and underlying philosophy of the program and on the ways they are implemented.”

Starting a new job is like being suddenly immersed in a different culture. Even for a home visitor with a wealth of experience, new settings often come with new ways of doing the work. Each program has its own unique way of operating, from what is acceptable to wear to how, what, when, and with whom staff can communicate. Orientation activities and physical, psychological, and informational support during this important period are essential to successful home visitor recruitment and retention.

As part of orientation and preservice training, consider learning strategies that might benefit a new home visitor:

  • Provide and review written materials about your program and its mission, as well as written policies, procedures, and protocols for your overall program and the specific work of the home visitor. Use a checklist to ensure that each home visitor has received information on key topics.
  • Provide opportunities for new home visitors to shadow experienced home visitors.
  • Set up mentorship or “buddy” systems.
  • Provide opportunities for new home visitors to role-play challenging situations.
  • Provide opportunities for new home visitors to observe video of actual home visits or group socialization experiences. Make sure to get written permission from families to share videos of them with staff other than their assigned home visitors.
  • Review case studies of diverse families with new home visitors.
  • Begin to establish a collaborative relationship with the home visitor through individual and/or group reflective supervision.
  • Stagger orientation activities over time to support home visitors in learning and implementing new policies, practices, and products (e.g., home-based curriculum, child assessment tools).

Professional development is a lifelong, 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, the Head Start ELOF, 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.

When determining the professional development needs of home visitors, consider the following:

  • Offer a variety of professional development opportunities — for example, monthly in-service 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 scheduling immediate home visit observations after training 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 languages of home visitors).
  • Provide formal educational opportunities. The HSPPS (45 CFR §1302.92(b)) states that staff training and professional development be attached to academic credit, as appropriate.

You can evaluate the impact of professional development activities on home visitors’ work using both informal and formal methods. For example, parent surveys, child-level assessment, and attainment of goals in the family partnership agreement all provide helpful 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.

Learn More

Aligning Adult Learning Principles with TTA Strategies

When you adopt approaches to TTA that incorporate adult learning principles, your staff will be highly engaged, and sustained program change is more likely. This document lists 12 common TTA strategies.

Early Essentials Series

The video webisodes in this series offer key messages and helpful resources to get staff started with the youngest children and their families. Managers can use this series and Quick Start Guides to plan orientation, 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, growth and development of the first three years, school readiness for infants and toddlers, self-care, environments, responsive interactions, and language development.

Institute for the Advancement of Family Support Professionals

The Institute’s training modules support home visitors and supervisors on a variety of topics. These free, online modules are based on the national core competency framework and were developed with Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting funding.

Relationship-Based Competencies to Support Family Engagement for Professionals Who Make Home Visits

Discover nine relationship-based competencies for supporting professional development for staff and supervisors. Use self-assessments to develop individual professional development plans and to prepare for preservice training, midyear check-ins, and year-end check-ins.