Professional Development to Improve Early Childhood Program Quality

High-quality early childhood programs have a lasting impact on children, families, and your local community. While many factors contribute to the quality of an early childhood program, your teaching staff ranks highest on that list. Teachers work tirelessly to create educational experiences that support child development and improve learning outcomes. A growing reality in the early childhood employment market is that not all teachers are entering the classroom with the same experience and credentials, which is why professional development is so important. 

By supporting the growth and educational development of your teaching staff, the quality of your program will improve, and so will your ability to retain these qualified teachers. With a higher quality rating, you may also have more access to funding opportunities that will help you supply your program with needed furnishings and materials. 

As you consider ways you can support the professional development of your teaching staff, you may have questions like: How can I provide teachers with professional development solutions that fit their needs and do not add to the stresses they are already facing? How do I find relevant, up-to-date training options to help my teachers implement classroom best practices? How do I ensure my teaching staff will use their learning to create impactful and engaging learning experiences for young children? 

With decades of providing high-quality professional development and industry-leading resources, Kaplan understands the importance of professional growth and its impact on program quality and learning outcomes. In this article, we answer early childhood directors' and administrators' most common questions about professional development opportunities for their staff. 

Keep reading to learn about the importance of appropriate professional development, the best professional development options for your early childhood teachers, and how to get your teachers excited about their professional growth. 

Why is professional development significant in early childhood education?

Professional development is important because it provides opportunities for teachers to gain new skills and improve the educational experiences they create in the classroom. What is even more critical than your teacher's participation in professional development is that they participate in sessions that pique their interests, fill educational gaps, and solve specific problems they are experiencing in the classroom. 

Professional development solutions that encompass all three of those factors will:

  • Keep your teachers current on trending topics in the field of early childhood education so that they are using teaching methods that promote best practices
  • Enhance your teachers' ability to educate, nurture, and support young children as they grow and develop
  • Encourage teachers to stay in the classroom instead of leaving the field to pursue other careers
  • Improve the learning outcomes that your early childhood program produces, which could lead to a higher rating scale score and child enrollment

An early childhood teacher sits at a table beside a young girl in a pink shirt, the girl is looking down at a tablet on the table and is pressing her finger to the screen.
What is the current landscape of professional development in early childhood education?

Professional development is a mandatory annual requirement by most state licensing agencies. For example, following the first year of employment, early childhood teachers in North Carolina must clock anywhere from 5 to 20 hours of ongoing training per year, depending on their experience level. Failure to do so could negatively impact annual compliance inspections and the quality rating of their program. 

To complete their required hours, most early childhood teachers attend professional development sessions, which may or may not be relevant to their work in the classroom. 
These sessions may also lack strategies that help implement new teaching techniques in the classroom. This poses a problem because teachers facing specific classroom challenges need targeted help or support to overcome them. 

Understanding what is available today is important to provide your teachers with the most beneficial, up-to-date professional growth solutions. 

What professional development options are available for early childhood teachers today?

There are many different professional development opportunities available for early childhood teachers today. The most common methods are:

  • In-person training sessions
  • Virtual training sessions and webinars
  • Conferences
  • Resource books written by early childhood experts
  • Blogs and podcasts hosted by trusted names in the field

While not all of these methods will help your teachers meet their annual professional development hours, they are still valuable tools that can improve the educational experiences they provide young children. The worst way to think of professional development is as a task someone must complete to clock a set number of hours. This is why Kaplan is a firm believer in the professional learning approach. Why do we take the professional learning approach?

Professional Development

Professional Development is what you typically think of as a “one and done” event that lasts a few hours or days, such as an in-person lecture or 3-day conference that is quickly forgotten. Educators and other early childhood professionals gain information from experts during these sessions and then must go back to their classrooms and implement what they learn on their own.

Professional Learning

Professional Learning at Kaplan includes multifaceted, interactive, ongoing learning experiences. The delivery of information may look like traditional professional development. Still, using multiple formats and making a teacher's learning continuous makes a big difference in how they can put that knowledge into practice. 

Professional learning opportunities also include an element of community support that is typically missing from one-time events. By providing your teachers with a coach or Professional Learning Community after a session, they can speak with other educators, share their experiences, and get feedback and strategies relevant to their needs. 

While we at Kaplan prefer constant and consistent professional learning for early childhood educators, any chance teachers have to learn new skills that help them support child development and education is worthwhile. One thing to remember if your educators are attending one-time events or conferences is that they will likely need your support as they implement new strategies in their classrooms.

Two professionals are sitting at a table, looking down at an open laptop which is placed on the table between the two of them.
How can you get your teachers excited about professional development?

Imagine you are an early childhood teacher in a preschool classroom. Each day, you encounter challenging behaviors that make keeping children engaged during circle time difficult. When it is time for you to sign up for professional learning hours, the only options available are in-person sessions about infant development and outdoor play. You attend the sessions because you need to clock hours this year, but you leave without any practical techniques you can take into your classroom to make the learning experiences better and to alleviate the challenging behaviors. 

That is not the experience you want your teachers to have, nor is it the type of experience that will improve the quality of your early childhood program. The following tips can help you make professional growth exciting and beneficial for your teachers: 

Create a personalized professional development plan for each teacher on your staff.

Meet with each of your teachers individually to assess their strengths, areas of improvement, and any challenges they are experiencing in their classroom. This will give you a better picture of the professional growth topics that will better meet their needs. Create a professional development plan that includes all appropriate opportunities in the upcoming months to support each teacher's needed growth. 

Choose professional development sessions that fit how your teachers learn best.

Children are not the only ones who learn in different ways. Before booking professional development sessions for your teachers, ensure the delivery method is conducive to how they learn best. This will ensure they are excited about attending their session, feel like they have a choice and voice in their professional development plan, and will have the best chance of retaining and implementing what they learn. 

Incorporate ongoing learning into your teacher's daily practices.

No matter how impactful a training session may be, your teachers may still need additional education and support before they can fully implement new practices in their classrooms. Encourage your teachers to read books, listen to podcasts, and speak with other professionals who can offer guidance. When possible, cover the expense of ongoing learning for your teachers.  

Read This: Making Good Professional Development Investments

Does Kaplan offer professional learning solutions for early childhood teachers?

Yes! Whether you are looking for in-person sessions or virtual webinars, Kaplan offers various professional learning solutions for early childhood teachers. Our current offerings include: 

  • On-site, in-person training that you can customize to fit the needs of your staff
  • Virtual interactive training sessions with easy-to-apply strategies your team can implement immediately
  • Virtual webinars presented by leading early childhood experts
  • Curriculum implementation coaching and training sessions that build upon each other so that your teachers understand each lesson and how to put it into practice in the classroom

Do some or all of your teachers speak a language other than English? Kaplan also offers Spanish-speaking session leaders who can translate the information for Spanish-speaking audiences. 

Something else you may not realize about Kaplan Early Learning Company is that our sister brand, Gryphon House, is an award-winning publisher of early childhood resources. Each year, they publish new books written by industry experts, all backed by scientific research to help you and your teachers connect theory and best practices in the classroom. Browse the Gryphon House website for resources on challenging behaviors, teacher burnout, inspirational leadership, child development, and more.

Stay up-to-date on the best professional learning opportunities for your teaching staff. 

As you know, early childhood education is constantly evolving as new studies and research become available. Trying to stay current with all the professional learning opportunities your teachers will find beneficial can feel daunting - until now. Head to our Professional Learning page to request a schedule of our upcoming professional development sessions today. We update our schedule regularly to include new webinars, in-person, and virtual training sessions that address top classroom concerns and current early childhood trends.

Professional learning solutions. Find a training session that matches your interests, schedule and budget. Enroll now.