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Mastering Growth: 3 Tips for Special Education Professional Development

As a BCBA dedicated to supporting fellow professionals in the field, I understand the pivotal role that effective training plays in fostering a collaborative and informed educational environment. In this blog post, we’ll explore three actionable strategies to provide enriching special education professional development for teachers and support staff.

present comprehensive training slideshows

Whether you are the BCBA, case manager, or teacher in the room, it may be beneficial to request specific training time with your entire classroom staff at one time. This may be a lofty goal for some, depending on the needs and resources in your district. However, even meeting 1-2 times a year to delve into foundational topics for special education professional development could help set the groundwork for future, smaller trainings.

A few questions to ask administration that could potentially help support this goal are:

  • If there is mandated professional development time in teacher contracts, can you do a classroom training in place of a faculty meeting?
  • Can substitute teachers be arranged (even for one hour?) on any given day so that paraprofessionals or instructional aides have time out of their schedules to learn basic concepts before working with students?
  • Can support staff be offered extra pay to stay before or after school once in awhile for training topics?

Even if the answer to all of these are initially “No!”, it could help lay the groundwork for the need for future special education professional development. Click to browse a bundle of 8 slideshows perfect for new school year trainings.

Sharing informative trainings serves as foundational tools for understanding key concepts, ensuring that your team shares a common understanding. Tailor the content in your special education professional development to resonate with educators and support staff, making it relevant, engaging, and easily digestible. Common themes that I review at the onset of each year are: autism (Diagnostic criteria and common characteristics), ABA (What is Applied Behavior Analysis and what specific strategies within it can we use to teach skills?) and behavior management (Research based techniques to use positive reinforcement and teach replacement skills).

Transform Special education professional development with games and activities

Make learning fun by turning content into interactive games, such as bingo or jeopardy. These activities not only add an element of fun to special education professional development activities but also enhance engagement and retention of critical information. Customizing games to align with specific learning objectives ensures that the training is not just informative but also memorable. Interactive learning experiences create a dynamic atmosphere that encourages active participation and team building.

Embed Training into Everyday moments

Embed natural training opportunities for staff throughout the school day and year. In many of my classrooms, I have hosted brief meetings (5 minutes, max!) before school to share insights or provide quick updates. During these meetings, in addition to sharing, I often ask for feedback from teachers and support staff as well. In addition to letting all staff members feel heard, this reminds them of ongoing themes in the classroom without drawing attention to any that may have been overlooked or forgotten. For example, sommon questions I might ask are:

  • Last week, we talked about contriving more opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction- have you found this easy to implement or we do need to plan more systematically for this?
  • When implementing Mark’s behavior plan, do you feel as if the data collection is manageable or do we need to make changes so it is more efficient?
  • I notice that Pat’s behaviors are high.. when might be a good time for me to observe and offer feedback?

Use instructional sessions as a platform for real-time feedback and advice, creating a culture of continuous learning. When I first started teaching, I found it very awkward to turn to a paraprofessional or assistant teacher and offer feedback (even if I could clearly hear that a teaching protocol was being run incorrectly). I found that it became much easier over time, especially when I tried to keep comments supportive and non-judgemental. By seamlessly integrating training into daily routines, you empower your team to absorb and apply knowledge organically, making it easier to generalize it to the next teaching opportunity.

Conclusion

Special education professional development is not just a box to check but a continuous journey towards excellence. By presenting educational and comprehensive slideshows, infusing interactivity into training sessions, and embedding learning opportunities into daily routines, we pave the way for a culture of lifelong learning. How do you approach professional development for your team, and what strategies have proven most effective? Share your insights in the comments below.

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