In the world of education, the significance of professional development cannot be overstated. As a Special Education Director, you shoulder the responsibility of overseeing effective professional development programs for your team members. But how do you ensure that your district’s PD budget is well-spent on training that is truly valuable to your staff and their students? In this blog, we’ll provide useful tips to help you effectively plan professional development and make the most of your professional development time.
6 Tips for Making the Most of Your Professional Development Time & Budget
Professional development offers educators the opportunity to increase their knowledge base, gain new insights, stay up to date with current best practices, and continuously refine their skills. However, not all professional development is created equal. To ensure that the time and financial resources invested in PD are truly valuable and impactful, consider these six criteria for effective professional development.
1. Choose Relevant, Timely Topics
When planning professional development, select topics that are relevant to the challenges and opportunities your team faces. Look for emerging trends, cutting-edge research, and innovative practices that can inspire new ways of thinking and problem-solving. When the presentation is on a familiar or recurrent topic, the information should add to participants’ current understanding by providing new perspectives or insights.
2. Provide Useful and Applicable Content
Effective training for special education team members provides content that is practical and effectively addresses the challenges that they face in their roles. Educators benefit from sessions that provide relatable and real-world examples and case studies.
In order for content to be useful and applicable, participants must gain practical knowledge that can be utilized in their work with students. Subsequently, sessions that allow participants to directly apply what they've learned to real-world scenarios are more effective than those that focus on theoretical underpinnings.
3. Keep Training Data-Based
Professional development offerings should be based on reliable data and promote the use of evidence-based practices. Trainings that offer insights through research, case studies, and real-life success stories are more impactful than those that focus on specific strategies without information about their potential outcomes. Data-driven professional development content enhances confidence regarding the potential impact that specific programs and new methods can have on student learning.
4. Make Presentations Engaging
Professional development is most beneficial when the presentation captivates the audience’s attention and keeps them engaged. That’s why your team members are more likely to benefit from professional development facilitation that is appealing and motivating. Presenters should not only be knowledgeable but also enthusiastic and passionate about the topic. Interactive sessions that involve activities, discussions, and participation add value and increase attendees’ involvement, which in turn fosters stronger retention of new content.
5. Deliver Useful Resources
The most effective training presentations don’t just deliver information; they also provide resources and materials that are designed to facilitate the retention of new learning and the implementation of new strategies. At a minimum, professional development sessions should include training materials such as handouts and slides to help support the attendees’ learning and allow them to review the material after the presentation.
Training that provides supplementary materials such as checklists, links to online downloadable resources, and implementation guides allow participants to not just learn new concepts, but go further in supporting their use of new strategies. For instance, for a presentation on inclusive classroom practices, a checklist of key indicators that educators print out to use as a self-assessment is more likely to result in changes than a presentation that does not offer this type of resource.
6. Outline Meaningful Change, Action Steps, and Immediate Takeaways
Effective professional development sessions include useful takeaways that can be readily put into practice, and participants should leave the session with clear and actionable steps that can be incorporated into their work. These steps should be tangible and achievable, allowing educators to see immediate results.
Whether it's strategies to address executive functioning challenges, ABA techniques for teaching social skills, or ways to foster home-school collaboration, educators should walk away with actionable insights that they can implement with their students right away.
Professional Development: The Foundation Of A Strong Special Education Team
The ultimate goal of professional development is tangible changes in thoughts, attitudes, skills, and/or behaviors. Whether it's changes in teaching approaches, shifts in attitudes, improvements in classroom management, or adopting new strategies, participants should experience valuable transformations. The impact of PD sessions can be gauged with questions such as:
- As a result of the training, do your team members feel more confident in their abilities?
- Did team members start implementing new techniques?
- Are student outcomes improved as a result of new practices?
Effective professional development for your special education team is an investment that yields invaluable returns through the positive changes it brings to your staff and the enriched learning experiences of the students they serve.
Like many SPED directors we support, we know that researching, planning, and executing your professional development sessions can easily be pushed to the side when you're juggling so many competing priorities. We recognize that struggle and have one more solution for you—Professional Development made easy with Psyched Services.
It’s easy to get a custom professional development plan for your teams:
- Get Your Custom Plan - Answer a few questions about your district; we'll evaluate how Psyched Services can help your special education team benefit from high-quality professional development and continuing education that will not only maximize their professional growth, but also outcomes for your students.
- Customized Programming - Our experts will craft an individualized professional development program to meet your district's needs.
- Experience Growth - Watch your team learn, grow, get more done, and make an even bigger difference in the lives of your students.
So, set your team up for success today and Get Your Custom Plan!
Up next: Learn about the benefits of customized training. Stay tuned for additional blogs in this series, including building a supportive supervision culture for your staff.