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Michelle Seligson is director of Bringing Yourself to Work, a professional development program for after school practitioners. She describes the project’s approach to professional development and the strategy for assessing its impact on program quality.

Recent research has shown that one important indicator of excellence in the workplace is an employee’s self-awareness and capacity for connection, empathy, and mutuality. While concepts such as emotional intelligence and group relations are now informing interventions in the corporate world, little attention has been given to their application in child care or after school settings. Bringing Yourself to Work: Successful Staff Development in After-School Programs (BYTW) is a research and training project that aims to translate theory into practice in order to enhance the job performance of after school practitioners and the quality of their programs.

When children form positive relationships with adults and peers, they have more successful outcomes. In keeping with developmental research, we believe the quality of relationships between care providers and youth participants is the most significant characteristic of a good after school program, and that professional development of staff members can facilitate this process.

However, while research on the correlation between teacher training in social-emotional skills and children’s in-school success is available, to date there is no parallel research investigating the impact of such training for after school practitioners and participants. BYTW addresses this gap by offering didactic and interactive trainings that include theoretical and experiential learning on emotional intelligence, relational theory, and group relations. These concepts are demonstrated through case examples and participants’ reflections on their own experiences.

At BYTW, we evaluate all of our trainings to ensure continuous improvement. As our project shifts from research and development to application, evaluation data is critical in order to guarantee that the content and delivery are relevant to providers’ lives. To facilitate the evaluation process, we have developed several instruments to assess participant satisfaction. These include a pre-training questionnaire that assesses individual program environments and concerns, a self-assessment tool for individual providers, a participant goal-setting tool, and a post-training satisfaction questionnaire administered to participants by telephone at 3, 6, and 12 months after the training.

An example of one of our evaluation questions is, How has this experience affected your thinking about yourself and your relationships with others, and how has what you’re doing changed as a result? While we are unable at this time to evaluate directly the impact on children of improved social-emotional skills among staff, information from the follow-up surveys will help to capture data about overall program quality.

As part of our continuous improvement efforts, four diverse communities have been selected to participate in an upcoming pilot study of an expanded BYTW training. This training model will include on-site observation and consultation. We plan to use the evaluation instruments described above to assess the degree to which training participants have improved their social-emotional skills relative to the children and other adults in their programs.

Related Resources

Seligson, M., & Jahoda, P. (2003). Bringing yourself to work: A guide to successful staff development in after-school programs. New York: Teachers College Press.

Seligson, M., & MacPhee, M. (2002). The relevance of self at work: Emotional intelligence and staff training in after-school environments. Wellesley, MA: The Wellesley Centers for Women.

Although focused primarily on education, many of the National Staff Development Council’s (NSDC) resources are also helpful for the OST field. See also the fall 2003 issue of NSDC’s Journal of Staff Development, which focuses on evaluation of professional development.

The National Youth Development Learning Network (NYDLN) is an initiative of the National Collaboration for Youth designed to strengthen the capacities of youth workers. NYDLN resources include a professional development e-newsletter, available at (Acrobat file).

The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) has created the National Awards Program for Model Professional Development to recognize schools with highly effective staff development programs. From the pool of winners, NCREL has identified promising professional development practices and synthesized them into a hands-on guide for conducting evaluations. Although geared toward education, many of the guide’s how-to suggestions can be applied to OST.

Michelle Seligson, M.Ed.
Senior Research Associate and Associate Director
Wellesley Centers for Women
Wellesley College
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Tel: 781-283-2554

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