Professional Development for Early Care and Education Professionals: Creating a Reflective Practice Director’s Corner

Working with Employees to Create Unique Professional Development Plans

A large part of the role of director includes ensuring that employees have the tools necessary to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of the job. Effective program leaders have systems in place to track the number of hours of continued training employees take each year. Training binders and professional development records are meticulously maintained to be sure that each employee meets the training standards established for the program. This is an important task that serves an essential purpose. But is there more that leaders can do to encourage meaningful professional development? The answer is yes! One of the most important things program leaders can do is guide employees to seek out training that addresses their individual needs. While there are certain trainings that every early care and education professional needs to take, it is important to recognize that each individual has unique skill sets and areas of need.

As a leader, it is your role to help your employees to identify these strengths and opportunities for growth. Much of this can be accomplished through the use of a robust performance evaluation process, which includes ongoing observation, reflection, feedback, and goal setting. During annual reviews, time can be spent identifying two or three training topics that relate to the performance goals that you have created with each employee.

Here are a few other opportunities program leaders can use to promote meaningful professional development:

Core Belief Reflection: Does your program have a vision/mission statement? What are the core beliefs that your employees value in their work with children? If your program has not identified these beliefs, work with staff during your next staff meeting to create these statements of commitment. To close the conversation, provide the following prompt: “What skills or knowledge do you need to ensure that your work is aligned with these statements 100% of the time?” Throughout the following weeks, touch base with each employee to gather their responses to the prompt. Guide them to identify training opportunities that relate to their responses.

Quality Improvement Tools: There is no shortage of tools available that support quality improvement initiatives. From the CLASS and environmental rating scales to state developed QRIS and NEAYC accreditation standards, there are many tools that program leaders can use to promote relevant professional development. If your program is currently working with one (or more) of these tools, make sure that employees reflect, identify areas of opportunity, and enroll in training tied to those areas. Keep in mind, though, that these tools cover many areas of programming and can be a bit overwhelming. Encourage employees to focus on just one standard or area of programming at a time for this reflection activity.

Core Competency Surveys: States have worked hard to identify the core competencies for the child care workforce. Some have even created self-assessment documents to accompany the competencies. You could create your own reflection tool based on your state’s competencies. There is also a CDA competency framework that can be used as a tool to promote reflection and goal setting. These tools should be used to help providers create an intentional, annual plan for skill building.

Are there other tools that you use to make sure that your employees are taking relevant and meaningful training throughout the year? Tell us about it on our Facebook page here.