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Professional Development

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Behavior Change, but Not for Kids: The Missing Link to Effective Training

Would you put a driver behind the wheel of a car alone after a single driving lesson? Probably not!

And while kids' healthy development is the most pressing concern in our field, we often do just this—provide a single training to youth workers and expect them to be ready, from becoming a STEM whiz to being trauma-informed. It may be due to a lack of money or time, and certainly not for a lack of concern. There's simply not enough support for youth work professionals trying to help kids thrive.

The good news is that we know what works in adult learning. Many of us have used the andragogy framework (Knowles, 1984) to design effective professional development, ensuring trainings are experiential, timely, relevant and positive. We also know that sustained learning over time is the way to make training work. By some estimates, it takes nearly 50 hours of PD to see an impact on children's learning (Yoon, et al., 2007).

At Change Impact, we are challenging the field to up our game, adding one more critical factor to PD: behavior change. Yes, we still need to use sound andragogy and offer ample hours of PD, but we also need to address implementation of new practices. According to research (Fogg, 2009), the way to do this is threefold:

1. Improve ability to implement a practice or skill.
2. Spark motivation to implement a practice or skill.
3. Prompt the new practice or skill until it becomes a habit.

By integrating the science of behavior change into youth development trainings, we can maximize limited resources, strengthen skills and better prepare educators to support kids.

We fused these insights into our new equity-driven PD platform, Change Up Learning, and you can adopt them for your trainings, too. And, the good news? It doesn't have to cost more or take extra time!

Thinking back to that new driver: How might they demonstrate readiness to go out on their own? How will you inspire them to continuously improve? How would you remind them of what they've learned so it becomes second nature? Ask yourself these same questions about your trainings, and you should see even stronger results.

Jen Curry, Ed.D. is CEO of Change Impact, a consultancy helping social impact organizations achieve results and advance equity.

Photo courtesy of Change Impact.