This is an excerpt from Essentials of Teaching Health Education eBook With Web Resource, The by Sarah Benes & Holly Alperin.
Criteria for a Personalized Professional Development Plan
- Identify learning goals. Similar to asking your students to set a goal during a goal-setting unit, identify two to four learning goals per year that you would like to achieve. Some goals may be more in depth and require previous learning or multiple years to complete (e.g., working with an instructional coach to align all lessons to be more culturally inclusive), while other goals are more simplistic and can be achieved by attending one or two training sessions (e.g., learning about new risk behavior data and updating lessons as appropriate).
Identify resources necessary to achieve your goals. All goals require resources to achieve them. Resources include the following:
- Expertise (coaching, mentoring, other educators)
- Substitute coverage
- Any specific resources necessary to accomplish each goal
- Identify supports and barriers. Similar to resources, certain factors support the likelihood of achieving a goal and others inhibit it. Be thoughtful and reasonable when identifying what may help or hinder progress on your goals. This includes the supports necessary from the administration.
- Set time parameters. Identify how long each goal should take.
- Define success. What does successful completion of your professional development goals look like? Is partial completion acceptable for long-term goals? Are you factoring in student performance? Does success hinge on others being able to assist you in achieving your goals?
Using What You Learn
Just as it is important to thoughtfully select professional learning opportunities, it is important to use the skills, information, and strategies learned during these events. Use it or lose it! We have all attended events where good intentions for classroom or workplace change are derailed by the crisis of the moment. Good intentions often get sidelined for legitimate reasons, but this prohibits us from taking advantage of our learning and ultimately has an impact on our ability to change our classroom practice. The following strategies can assist you in taking full advantage of your learning.
- Create an action plan. If you haven’t already done so during the learning event, take some time to establish three to five concrete steps for using the information that you learned. With each action, similar to the personalized professional development plan, consider what may help or hinder you in achieving each objective. Be realistic about your actions, but challenge yourself to try something new. Lastly, place a time frame on your actions in order to hold yourself accountable.
- Check on action plan progress. After returning from a professional learning opportunity, make a note in your calendar to review your action plan and to complete any outstanding items. If the action plan is far from being completed, reevaluate if the stated actions were appropriate or if they need to be revised.
- Tell a friend. When we vocalize our goals, they become more real. Enlist the support of a colleague and hold each other accountable to your learning and implementation goals.
- Educate other staff. Upon returning from a well-designed learning opportunity, plan a time to meet and share the information. Use this time to discuss how the new learning could have a positive impact on classroom practice and student outcomes. If possible, consider sharing the learning at an all-staff meeting. This will demonstrate your commitment while also providing cross-curricular connections.
- Follow up with contacts. We all make contacts at events. Make a pointed effort to follow up with at least two other participants and the presenter or facilitator following the event. This will also help you stay energized about your learning and discuss strategies for implementation with another person who has the same knowledge base.
- Participate in follow-ups. Many professional learning opportunities that run over a length of time have follow-up mechanisms, such as an online community, an in-person session to discuss how implementation is working in the classroom, or connections to other resources. Using the provided forums gives you the support you need and answers questions for smoother implementation.
Participation in well-designed professional development helps you to be a better educator, benefitting not only your practice but also your students. Similarly, participation in high-quality professional development advances the profession. When we have health educators who are strong in the classroom, we build our credibility overall. Another way to advance the profession is through advocacy. Let’s take a deeper look at what it means to be an advocate for the profession.
Learn more about The Essentials of Teaching Health Education.