The after school field is continuously evolving. As policies and education standards change, after school programs must stay aligned in order to successfully serve today’s students.That’s where professional development (PD) comes in. There’s a wide range of PD resources and opportunities available to help program directors and staff gain new skills, improve program quality and learn the latest trends and practices in child development.

The after school field is continuously evolving. As policies and education standards change, after school programs must stay aligned in order to successfully serve today’s students.

That’s where professional development (PD) comes in. There’s a wide range of PD resources and opportunities available to help program directors and staff gain new skills, improve program quality and learn the latest trends and practices in child development.

7 Professional Development Tools for After school Professionals

Below we’ve shared a few free and low-cost tools for growing your career as an after school professional:

Webinars

Webinars are a convenient way to learn from experts in the field without leaving the comfort of your home. Each month, the After school Alliance hosts free webinars with after school experts and practitioners on topics like program funding, STEM and community-building.

Each webinar includes downloadable resources and information about the speaker. Register to attend an upcoming webinar or browse previous webinars at after schoolalliance.org.

Membership Organizations

Membership organizations, like the National After School Association (NAA), provide continuous access to opportunities, resources, and communities that will help you grow professionally.

The NAA offers two levels of membership for after school professionals: Ambassador and Executive. With either plan, you’ll receive professional development resources and opportunities plus discounts on after school products and services. The Executive plan includes benefits such as subscriptions to After School Today Magazine and the Journal of Youth Development, exclusive invitations and free access to NAA’s virtual convention. Check out their membership information to review your options.

Continuing Education

Earn course credits or certificates to expand your skills and grow your career as an after school professional. Below are a few options to explore before starting this path:

  • OSTPD Center: Explore hundreds of free and paid courses designed specifically for after school professionals. Topics range from crisis communication to computer basics to job success. The OSTPD Center also offers a 36-course certificate series developed by after school program training expert Roberta Newman.
  • Care Courses: Their After Schools Program course teaches after school professionals the elements of a quality program, positive discipline techniques, how to support children’s development and much more. Upon completion, you’ll receive a certificate and eight credit hours (or 0.8 CEUs).
  • Charter Oak State College: This public online college offers the Credential In After School Education (CASE), a professional certification program that targets teaching expertise, program management and professional skills for after school personnel. Students must have 240 hours of experience in after school education prior to enrolling or complete a field experience course.

Training Kits

These one-stop resources are great professional development tools for after school professionals. One in particular, the After School Training Toolkit, is designed to give program directors and staff the resources they need to teach and engage students with fun, innovative and academically enriching activities.

This free, online kit developed by The SEDL National Center for Quality After school includes research-based practices, sample lessons, video examples and other resources to support academic enrichment in after school. It covers literacy, STEM subjects, homework and more. Check out 10 ways to use this toolkit as a professional development tool in your program.

Books

If you prefer reading instead, there are a variety of books available to grow your professional skills and enhance your after school program.

To help you get started, we rounded up seven books every after school professional should read. The books in this list provide tips, tools and insights on transforming your after school space, engaging at-risk students, telling your program story and much more.

Workbooks

Take it a step further with workbooks that provide practical, in-depth guidelines and exercises to help you apply what you’ve learned. The Best Practices Workbook: Guidelines for School-Age Programs was designed to educate program directors and staff members on best practices for their after school programs.

The workbook contains 21 checklists of "best practices" ranging from relationships to environment to staffing. The goal is for you to work methodically through the checklists to develop strategies to improve program quality and facilitate the positive development of children in your program.

Informal PD

There are also less formal ways to expand your knowledge beyond the tools listed above. Explore social media to find expert tips and resources to expand your skills. Participate in Twitter chats, like #edchat, to join insightful discussions or browse Pinterest for lesson-plan ideas and how-to guides. You can also connect with other after school professionals through networking opportunities or personal learning networks (PLNs) to share ideas, challenges and best practices.

The after school field is changing is for the better. The key is to continue learning and growing as an after school professional to maintain a high-quality, successful after school program for your students. What professional development resources do you use to grow your skills and expertise?