The Palm Beach County Afterschool Educator Certificate Program
Effective professional development is accepted as necessary for the improvement of afterschool program quality, which is itself a cornerstone for improving youth outcomes. But professional development is most effective when both individual participants are engaged and building relevant knowledge and skills, and the organizations to which they return are able to support the content and perspective gained in the training. The Palm Beach County Afterschool Educator Certificate (PBC-AEC) is one of these professional development training programs. Set within a larger systemic quality improvement effort in Palm Beach County, this training seeks to provide a concentrated course of learning, practice, and reflection. The training seeks to change how afterschool practitioners perceive their relationship to other staff, to the youth they work with, and to the broader afterschool field. Fundamentally, PBC-AEC educator’s purpose is to improve knowledge and practices in the short and longer term, and increase practitioners' interest in further professional development and involvement in the afterschool field.
Chapin Hall's research relies upon surveys of training participants conducted at the completion of training, in-depth interviews with participants in the weeks following training and with training staff at multiple points, and the review of program documentation and internal evaluation data.
The first year study describes the initial implementation of the PBC-AEC. Overall, practitioners reported high levels of satisfaction with PBC-AEC training soon after its completion, and their experiences typically matched or exceeded their expectations. Training was credited by participants as have several important impacts, including increased confidence in abilities, increased satisfaction with their work, and changed workplace practices. Many practitioners believed that this training had increased, or would increase, their likelihood to obtain additional education or training. Many also believed it made them feel more likely to stay in the afterschool field. Although practitioners described many immediate improvements in their attitudes, knowledge and practices, almost half of participants also believed there were barriers at their workplace that would make it difficult to apply parts of PBC-AEC training. In addition, the PBC-AEC program enrolled front-line staff and supervisors, who appear to have very different existing roles and goals within the afterschool field.
In the second year implementation study of the Palm Beach County Afterschool Educator Certificate program (PBC-AEC), researchers at Chapin Hall reviewed program documentation, and conducted surveys and interviews to understand program implementation and establish how this 80-hour course affected individuals in the second year of operation, how afterschool organizations adopted the principles of PBC-AEC, and the extent to which training graduates used PBC-AEC ideas and practices over time. This study provides specific measures of participant gains in knowledge and continued use of practices and resources introduced in PBC-AEC training even more than one year after training. This includes very low levels of practitioners job-leaving in the 12 to 18 months following training. This research identifies specific benefits of the PBC-AEC training approach in teaching individuals in an external professional development setting while supporting the transfer of learning back to afterschool organizations.