6 things to look for in presenters and organisations.As school principals and executive teams continue to plan for the needs of the staff and students according to their school management plans, it’s critical for them to know what to look for in the people they employ to run training/development or programs.Professional development in education is big business. Edupreneurs abound, all keen to offer solutions to many of the gaping holes in the provision of wellbeing services, mental health promotion etc that schools are scrambling to fill. Increasing schools do this by outsourcing these programs – understandable given the demands already on teachers, year advisers etc to meet students’ learning, behavioural and emotional needs and to provide a fresh way to engage students in the issues outside of a traditional classroom setting.A key example, and one which I find highly effective is Theatre-in-Education programs which satisfy a range of themes and come to the school (negating the need for onerous excursion risk assessments and administrivia).
Here’s some key considerations:
1. Qualifications in Education and/or training and assessment
Teaching young people is a profession, not a hobby. Training professional teachers and educational leaders requires a high level of skill in the planning and delivery of programs which address identified learning outcomes.
Being an expert in your field, also doesn’t always make you a great teacher per se. Check the presenter has some background in understanding pedagogy and education.
2. Qualifications in their area of expertise
Really passionate about mindfulness? That’s great! Yoga has really improved your own wellbeing? Super news! Believe that young girls need empowerment to overcome stereotypes and build self-esteem? Me too! Bullied at school and want to stamp it out? Go you!
A person’s passion and personal experience, while lovely and possibly inspiring, isn’t enough to establish them as an educator or coach on the topic. Ideally you’d look for specific training in the subject matter, not simply personal participation in it. A diploma or course completed, a certification in an area directly related to the content they present.
3. Their ability to tailor the content using evidence-based research
No two schools are the same. Each come with their own distinctive, nuanced staff and student culture with a unique parent body and community support. Presenters should be able to listen to the specific needs of the school and challenges faced and offer a level of tailoring to meet those needs.
With many of the topic areas du jour (cyber-safety, bullying prevention, mindfulness, wellbeing, yoga, growth mindset, mental health etc) there is regular evidence-based research emerging on best-practice and efficacy of interventions. Organisations and presenters should be up to date with current research and incorporating this into their work regularly. They should be able to provide you with the research and further technical reading on topics for those who want to go further.
4. A clear purpose statement and track record
This is not just a page of testimonials that high-five the organization or presenter, but a narrative of the work they’ve engaged in and the way they are developing to meet their goals and vision. For those starting up in the space, how have they building their work, what prior relevant experience do they bring.
Some questions to ask: How do they measure impact? How often do they provide services? What feedback mechanisms do they use to gather data on their performance? What is the most negative feedback they’ve received? How was this used to improve?
5. Price vs value
It’s difficult to regulate the cost of these services. Some (though few) offer voluntary services (beware of these) and others charge like corporate lawyers and antagonized bulls!
Consider getting a few quotes on cost/fees and ask if these are tailored to the audience size (cost per head, or flat rates etc). If it’s a flat rate, you might consider teaming up with neighbouring schools to make it more cost effective and doing a joint event for parents or professional development session.
6. Membership in a professional organisation
There are a range of associations which represent the peak-body relating to the topic area. Membership can denote the commitment to the ‘cause’ as well as provide networking and resources on trends and new research in the space.
For example, looking to get help with Sexting or cyber-bullying? Ensure your provider is certified with the Office of the Children’s E-safety Commissioner here: https://www.esafety.gov.au/education-resources/voluntary-certification-scheme
Got other ways you vett providers of services in your schools? Comment below.
// Jocelyn is a qualified teacher and registered psychologist with over 14 years in public education. She created Digital Nutrition and present to parents, students, teachers, psychologists regularly on healthy tech habits and digital wellbeing around Australia.