Planning For Your Professional Development
By Jan Faulkner
A commitment to lifelong learning is part of being a professional, no matter your occupation. However, it has special significance when it comes to being a professional in an early childhood service. Characteristics we try to encourage in children include an eagerness to learn, a curiosity to discover and a willingness to try new things. These same characteristics apply to our best early childhood educators and, to them, professional development is a must. When educators participate in rich professional development, they are better able to contribute to the ongoing growth of their own practice and the practices within their service.
When it comes to making changes and transforming practice, a well thought out professional development plan is a key pathway to success. Developing the plan is an important process that helps you realise your potential. Below are several steps that will help you to create a meaningful and achievable plan.
The first step in your planning is to identify the professional interests, knowledge and skills that you currently possess. This is the starting point and will help you decide where you want to develop as a professional and how you will get there.
Identify your specific aspirations by considering the following questions:
Identify the professional skills, knowledge and experience you need so that you can work towards achieving your ambitions and aspirations. Ask yourself, “How do I build on the skills, knowledge and experience I already have, to gain those that I need?”
Identify the strategies and resources that will help you to work on the areas identified in Step 3. You should seek a variety of experiences that will challenge your current views and ways of doing things - not simply validate them. The best professional development will:
Develop a broad timeline for accomplishing the opportunities identified in Step 4. This timeline might need to be flexible to suit your circumstances, but you are more likely to realise your plan if you have set yourself a timeframe.
Make sure your plan is documented and kept front of mind. It is essential to come back to it often so that you stay on track and focused on the aspirations you set yourself.
Assessing your progress regularly is important so that you can modify and adjust as the situation changes. Your professional development plan should always be a work in progress – open to adjustments and refinement. It must grow and change, reflect your current situation and provide a pathway for ensuring that your knowledge and skills genuinely develop over time
Ultimately, the purpose of professional development is to build the capacity of early childhood professionals to continually create better environments for children’s learning and wellbeing. At its core must be educators who view themselves as having a strong professional identity. It builds on past learning, provokes thinking and contributes to individual and team growth.
Discuss your plan openly with your colleagues because they will provide encouragement and support. By continuously developing our capacity and deepening our understanding of the work we do with children, our commitment and enthusiasm is sustained and we gain enormous satisfaction from our profession.
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. Performance and development toolkit for teachers: https://www.aitsl.edu.au/tools-resources/resource/performance-and-development-toolkit-for-teachers-overview