An Expert’s Guide How to Select Teacher Professional Development


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An Expert's Guide
How to Select Teacher Professional Development



We know all about booking the best professional development for your teachers, counselors, special educators or youth professionals. We're the experts at Youth Change Professional Development Workshops and we're going to guide education professional development speakeryou step-by-step through the confusing world of finding excellent staff training or booking a great speaker for your next conference, school inservice day or counseling convention.

My name is Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. and I'll be your guide. I've been a speaker for more than two decades and I'll share what I've learned with you here.


1. Identify Your Focus

Too often, we get phone calls from schools, conferences or districts asking for inservice but they are unclear on their focus. Different speakers zero in on distinctly different topic areas so know your focus area before you even begin to look for the right training for your staff.

professional development tipTIP: If you aren't sure exactly what is your most pressing training area, survey your staff and look for repeat requests and priority issues. Priority issues should include safety concerns, student motivation and basic classroom management concerns. If a school or class is unsafe, or if many students are unmotivated or out of control, a focus on academics or other areas will likely be wasted as safety, motivation and well-managed students are essential to everything else that happens at your site.


2. Identify the Results You Want

Once you are clear on the focus for your training, you need to figure out exactly what results you are seeking. We hear all the time about school and agency staff sitting through professional development trainings that delivered lots and lots of theory– but the hope had been to get immediately useable techniques. Before you begin your speaker search, make sure you are clear on what you hope to accomplish and whether you are seeking theoretical or practical solutions. Watch out for cookie-cutter workshops that are pre-fabricated and not tailored to your site, your students and your staff's exact needs.

teacher professional development guideTIP: Try to quantify the results you are hoping to achieve. For example, if classroom management is a top issue, you may want results that include a reduction in students referred to the principal for class disruption. Other examples: a reduction in the number of students suspended and improved attendance.



3. Choose a Delivery Method

In today's world, you have options beyond in-person workshops. While there is no question that in-person is the most effective delivery vehicle for most professional development courses, online training is an option to consider– especially if you are on a tight budget.

professional development tipsDEFINITIONS

Here are the terms to know:

An In-Person Course is provided live either at your site or at a general session hosted by the workshop provider.

General Session Workshops are live and open to anyone. They're sponsored by the course provider. See a sample of a general session workshop.

On-Site Workshops are in-person courses held at your conference, site or at your choice of site for your staff or whoever you decide to include. You can charge others to attend on-site training workshops. You can also use on-site training as a fund raiser by charging others a fee to enroll. View information on on-site training.

An Online Course is a pre-recorded workshop typically offered as a video or in a PowerPoint slide show format. There may or may not be the opportunity for questions or follow-up concerns following an online course. View examples of online courses.

A Webinar is a live course that participants view from their computer or other device as it happens. There may be the chance to interact with the instructor, often by typing questions. Recorded webinars can be later offered as online courses. 

All types of in-person and online workshops can offer college credit and clock hours.

To get a better look at what online workshops are about, look at one of our free mini-professional development online workshops.


4. Where to Look for Speakers and Workshops

Now that you know your focus, your goals and the formats that you are willing to consider, you are ready to search for the right speaker and the right workshop for your site.

You can certainly use a search engine to start looking for either live, online or on-site workshops. For example, to find Youth Change Professional Development Workshops, many searchers input "classroom management workshop," "how to motivate unmotivated students workshop," "classroom management speaker" or "school violence expert."

For general sessions and online courses, you just sign up to attend. For on-site training, it's a bit more complicated as you will read further below.

K12 education speakers bureauTo find a speaker or workshop for an on-site presentation, the other major search option is to use a speakers bureau. We love the two bureaus that we work with the most. They move heaven and earth to make sure that conference and inservice planners get everything they hoped for and so much more. We can heartily recommend Premiere Speakers Bureau and AEI Speakers Bureau. Here is what Youth Change Workshops' listing looks like at Premiere Speakers Bureau and at AEI.

Speakers bureaus do all the work for you and get that speaker to you on time no matter what. Sometimes the cost of a workshop or speaker can be the same whether you book directly with the provider or go through a speakers bureau. However, using a bureau can cost more as the bureau does take a portion of the speaker's fee you pay; many speakers raise their fee to cover that extra cost.

There are also Speaker Listing websites that list speakers without representing them. Here is how Youth Change Workshops looks on one of them.

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5. Costs for Speakers and Workshops

Online workshops can be quite affordable. Our online courses start at just $39 and include free clock hours. Tuition for our general session workshops start at $169.

Fees vary wildly for live on-site speakers. Generally, you can expect to pay a premium for any speaker who is a big name in their niche, and the more famous, the more you will spend. However, the size of the fee doesn't guarantee that you get the professional development you want. Speaker fees are not small. Because most speakers travel a long way to your site, expect to spend at least a few thousand dollars, probably more.

Most speakers charge not just a speaking fee but they also bill the host for air and ground travel, per diem and more. Some will also charge for the course workbook and by the number of participants. That can make it hard to calculate your final total to ensure it fits your budget. While this practice is the most common, it is not universal. Fortunately, there are speakers who buck the trend and use a simple flat fee instead.

K12 professional development tipsTIP: Here at Youth Change Workshops, we have always used a flat fee charge for speaking, with one single cost for everything. We don't add any fees for workbooks, participants, college credit or clock hours. The flat fee includes all travel and makes planning easy. Although flat fee is not common, we think it should be because anything that makes it easier on the host is the right way to operate. You may agree and decide to work only with speakers who offer a flat fee option.


professional development training tipTIP: Be sure when you compare flat fees with standard fees that you factor in the likely final cost you'll actually pay with the standard fee. Flat fees are financially best for the host because the speaker is covering everything and must absorb any unexpected costs. Compared to flat fees, standard speaking fees usually end up being a less favorable financial outcome for the host who has to pay for many more expenses, cover many more items and absorb unexpected costs.



6. What to Ask to Find the Right
Professional Development Speaker or Workshop

As noted earlier, the key element is to be sure to ask speaking candidates about their ability to help you reach your quantifiable goals. You should also ask for workshop flyers, course outlines, letters of reference, fee sheet, participant evaluations, press coverage, awards, clips and experience providing training on your topic in your type of setting. Also be sure to ask about the contract and fee payment arrangement. Some speakers require a deposit. Most speakers and speakers bureau only book on a nonrefundable basis. Why? It is hard to re-sell dates at the last moment. Be sure to check what happens if inclement weather, travel disruption or other unexpected event interferes with your professional development event.


7. Speaker and On-Site Workshop Contracts

Some speakers and bureaus have lengthy contracts for on-site training events but here are some of the basics that must be included on whatever paperwork you get: Date, times, place, topic, speaker name, fee, fee due date, cancelation/change policy, information on any additional charges, and AV and other setup needs. Nonrefundable, noncancellable dates are the industry standard as last-minute speaker rebooking usually isn't possible, and when it comes down to it, speakers sell dates.

If you will need to use a purchase order or proprietary school district or conference document, find out if the speakers bureau or speaker will accept it.


8. Certificates, College Credit and Clock Hours

Your staff may want or need certificates of completion, college credit or professional development hours from the training they attend. Ask if this is an option, and ask about costs. There is huge variation on the costs, from free to quite expensive. Here at Youth Change, we provide most certificates of completion and clock hours free, and our college credit is under $50.

Some professional development providers work with universities that charge a lot for credit. However, as long as the university is a regionally accredited university, the credit will work for degrees, salary increases, etc. Many regionally accredited universities charge very reasonable fees for credit that is just as valuable as that from a most expensive university. For example, we love working with Seattle Pacific University, a widely recognized, regionally accredited university with fantastic customer service for students, yet they charge just $45 per credit.


9. Follow-Up

Here at Youth Change, we warranty all our past participants, whether they participate in a live, on-site or online training event. That means we offer Live Expert Help, email help and toll-free phone help indefinitely. We also make it easy for our past participants to repeat our classes should they ever need to. Find out how the workshop provider will support your training participants once the live or online event is over.


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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.