While professional development is more than simple training, training is an integral part of developing staff. Professionalism development refers to the steps taken by an employer to support the personal and professional development of staff, including but not limited to the skills and knowledge needed to provide exemplary performance. The training and educational opportunities of staff certainly includes job training, but it also includes participation in outside training and/or the observation of the work of a peer who is executing on the training received in an exemplary manner.
The training and staff development that is afforded to each of your staff members should be in line with the goals of your organization in general, and your program in particular. It is important that you know what your goals are so you can provide appropriate training. For example, if one of the goals is to implement an academic program that is grounded in youth development principles; you may need to develop two aspects of the staff. First you will want to be sure that your staff has an in depth understanding of how to support academic improvement and secondly that staff has a clear understanding of how to approach their work with program participants through a youth development approach and mind set.
Staff development that surrounds academics will include discussion of standards, learning modalities, how to work with youth during homework time and use an inquiry-based strategy to ensure that youth are learning from the homework practice, and how to embed standards in the application of school-day learning in the experiences and projects youth are pursuing in after-school. Staff development around a youth development approach would explore the 40 Developmental Assets, the work of H. Stephen Glenn, and strategies to build resiliency in youth.
Staff development includes theory training and the sharing of knowledge and information which is best done in a “sit-down” training environment, and then follow-up field coaching to ensure that staff can implement the strategies learned during the theory training. If you think about world-class athletes, they rely on a coach to help them tweak and adjust performance to maximize results. This is the importance of coaching in the field to after-school staff as well. Paying attention during training is not usually enough to guarantee outstanding implementation. Staff needs more than a quick check-in—they need a knowledgeable practitioner to work with them in the real-world with real-students. If you consider athletics as a model, the question becomes “what is the ratio between hours of theory training and field training”. C4K would suggest that for every hour a person is in theory training they should receive a minimum of 2-3 hours of field coaching to ensure strong program execution. Experienced staff may need less time in field support than new staff when they are executing on the routine, day-to-day program, but will need the same support as new staff when executing on a new concept or strategy.
Staff is your most important program asset. Preparing them to deliver exemplary performance is foundational to having a strong, high-quality program.
Invest in youth by supporting the development of staff that work closely with them—building relationships that are key to resiliency development. Scholarship an after-school program or individual.
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