The quality of afterschool programming has improved significantly in the past few years. This is partly due to valuable research, funding opportunities and the support of leaders, professionals and advocates in the field. There is one area, however, that requires additional focus to continue improving outcomes and strengthening the overall afterschool profession: Professional Development (PD).

The National AfterSchool Association, a leader in professional development for afterschool professionals, has taken the lead on the issue. Earlier this year, a diverse group of leaders gathered at the 2019 NAA Convention to create strategies for professionalizing the afterschool field. The organization also created a memo titled Creating a Culture of Professionalization in AfterSchool, summarizing the leadership session and providing recommendations for next steps.

Below are a few key takeaways from the session (as stated by the NAA):

  • Afterschool needs to be acknowledged and promoted as a profession
  • Professional development in afterschool should be pulled out as its own issue
  • We need to create a culture change that prioritizes the professionalization of the field and professional development for staff and leaders
  • We need to ensure capacity of organizational leaders to move the professional development work forward

With the spotlight on professional development in afterschool, we wanted to share a roundup of our favorite blog posts focused on promoting leadership and PD among program staff.

From PD tools to valuable soft skills, you can use these resources to improve the professionalism of your afterschool program, thus improving the outcomes for participating students. Scan the articles below and be sure to bookmark them to read in your spare time.

1. Setting Professional-Growth Goals For After School Leaders

The first step in professional development is understanding what you want to achieve. To be effective, it helps to set specific PD goals and create a plan that’s both actionable and measurable. With this article, you’ll better understand:

  • The science behind goal-setting
  • How to align your goals with your program objectives, and
  • Questions to consider when setting professional-growth goals.

2. 7 PD Tools to Help You Grow As An After School Professional

There are endless ways for afterschool professionals to gain new skills that can ultimately improve their program. With this list, you will discover courses, membership organizations, training kits and even informal PD opportunities to help you grow your professional skills.

3. 10 Qualities Great Afterschool Program Leaders Have In Common

A great afterschool program is a direct reflection of its leader. And to be a great leader, you must possess a few essential qualities and soft skills like passion, decisiveness and empathy. This article shares 10 key qualities for program leaders, why they’re important and how to leverage them in your program.

4. 5 Ways to Prep New Program Staff For the School Year

Yes, program leaders play an important role in providing a quality afterschool experience for students. However, the frontline staff is responsible for executing the program strategy day to day. For this reason, it’s important that they’re trained appropriately and equipped with the right tools and information to drive program success. Throughout this article, you’ll find tips and strategies to keep new and existing program staff informed, engaged and committed to your program’s vision throughout the school year.

5. 7 Books Every After School Professional Should Read

Books are a great source of professional development and can help keep your skills sharp year-round. In this roundup article, we shared mandatory reading for afterschool professionals. The books in the list cover a range of topics, including leadership, fundraising, program development and innovative learning principles. These books are perfect reads for the weekend and extended school breaks.

While the NAA is leading the effort to improve professionalism in the overall afterschool field, you can take small steps to promote PD in your program today. Use the articles above to help you get started and check out our Leadership & Professional Development section for more resources on this topic.