Continuous professional development (CPD) is a framework of learning and development that ensures a professional’s competency, effectiveness, knowledge, skills and practice are continually kept up to date through ‘lifelong learning’ strategies and activities. There is not a fixed CPD standard or structure and a ‘one size fits all’ process would not work for all professions and individuals who work for companies with diverse objectives and working practices.
The various approaches may have common themes and goals such as setting objectives for development and charting progress towards them, or asking questions such as where I want to be, and how I plan to get there.
Reflection is also a key element of the process. Just as important is the motivation and responsibility of professionals for keeping their own skills and knowledge up to date. An early definition of CPD was developed in 1986 by the Construction Industry Council (UK). However, Friedman et al. (2000) found that it was still the most commonly cited definition of CPD among UK professional bodies in 1999.
‘The systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills, and the development of personal qualities necessary for execution of professional and technical duties throughout the individual’s working life’. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggest the following elements of a good and broad CPD structure. be a documented process be self-directed: driven by you, not your employer focus on learning from experience, reflective learning and review help you set development goals and objectives include both formal and informal learning.
CIPD further suggest the benefits to CPD practitioners provides an overview of your professional development to date reminds you of your achievements and how far you’ve progressed directs your career and helps you keep your eye on your goals uncovers gaps in your skills and capabilities Opens up further development needs provides examples and scenarios for a CV or interview demonstrates your professional standing to clients and employers helps you with your career development or a possible career change. CPD can involve any relevant learning activity, whether formal and structured or informal and self-directed.
Good CPD practice will include a variety of learning models that help professionals remain competent and up to date. Whatever the model or structure the process should highlight the needs of the job, strengths and weaknesses of learners and their future goals so learning gaps can be addressed. Listed below are examples and a short explanation of types of CPD learning and practice. The training model – often delivered by an expert in a classroom type environment. The award-bearing model – validation achieved via a standard or qualification. The deficit model – weak performance highlighted and measures taken to improve it.
The cascade model – one learner cascading their learning down to other colleagues. The standards-based model – meeting standards, often highlighted in observations. The coaching/mentoring model – on the job training that includes shadowing. The community of practice model – secondment or interagency training initiatives. The transformative model – flexible approach involving many of the above models. My own development is based very much on the transformative model of CPD that involves a range of both formal and informal learning, this provides me with the up to date knowledge and skills I need to do my job competently.
Schunk describes learning as, ‘Learning is an enduring change in behaviour or in the capacity to behave in a given fashion which results from practice or other forms of experience’. Schunk, Learning theories, 5th ed, 2008 Formal learning through training or qualification is often related to something specific, like a skill or competence. Formal training may include on-line and CD-ROM based courses or full or part time study leading to qualifications. Development on the other hand can be more informal and has a broader outlook on learning and may include private study such as reading, observing and reflection.
Structured continual learning is important in any profession because new research and practices may require new knowledge and skills. For example the QCF Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development is one example of formal learning that I have considered and want to undertake. This is for both professional and financial reasons. Professionally it proves a level of academic ability, knowledge and credibility. It is the standard that many career companies now expect from professionals delivering career guidance in schools.
Gaining the qualification should also help me remain competitive when applying for a job and hopefully keep me within a reasonable pay scale. Conferences, workshops and seminars also help keep professionals up to date with changes to practice and can be a vehicle for networks to be built up and experiences shared. On the job training such staff training, shadowing, secondment, coaching and mentoring all provide excellent provision for professionals to learn new skills and build up work based knowledge. Professionals may also learn by taking part in working groups or involvement in research projects.
Babcock recognises the benefit of CPD and is committed to broadening and developing all employees’ knowledge and skills in the pursuit of excellence. They understand the process helps promote career development and ensure legislation and contractual agreements are met. The company handbook CPD at Babcock Education and Training – Guidance for Staff’, describes the process of CPD as, ‘’any activity which increases the knowledge, skills and understanding of staff, improves job satisfaction and raises company performance’’.
The policy strongly advocates that practitioners should be accountable for their own personal growth and not solely rely on the company for training and development. It also requires professionals to maintain competent levels of learning as directed by their own professional bodies. If professionals are to be committed to their own CPD practice then there needs to be a certain level of self-motivation. Career Advisers as with all professionals need to remain competent to practice, regardless of whether they qualified yesterday, last year or twenty-five years ago.
(Golding ; Gray, 2006) agree and suggest that the last day of professional training signals the beginning of lifelong learning. According to Maslow (1943) hierarchy of needs that suggests people are motivated by a range of wants such as basic needs from food and shelter right up to the final stage of self-actualization and fulfillment. Herzberg (1959) showed that to motivate an employee a business needs to create conditions that make them feel fulfilled in the workplace. He suggested motivators such as achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility and advancement will motivate the worker to want to succeed and do well.
Both models recognise that when conditions are right workers want to do a good job and find satisfaction in their work. I would argue that professionals such as career advisers go further by recognising their duty of care to clients and desire to serve them well by providing the best service possible. This is only achieved by having up to date skills and a positive outlook on personal learning and development. CPD clearly benefits professionals, employers, customers and users. For it to be best utilised practitioners may need some form of CPD training.
Learning how to learn is a skill in itself, Joyce and Showers (2001) suggest that a positive impact on performance is more likely if training is provided on it. Cunningham (2001) agrees and says ‘’It cannot be ‘caught; people must be trained in the process’’ A full understanding of the CPD process gives the practitioner a methodical and structured approach to their learning that can be flexible and involve a number of learning styles that best suits the learner’s needs. My own CPD practice and planning is assisted through various policies and templates implemented by Babcock.
Supervision meetings with line-managers take place every 6-8 weeks where performance against SMART targets (objectives broken down to specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely goals) are discussed and feedback given. Before annual reviews take place a pre-review template is filled in by the member of staff. This process alone demands employees to take time to reflect on their past performance and draw attention to skill gaps and future training needs. Another template used during the annual review guides both practitioner and line-manager through the process.
This tool asks questions that demands a certain level of thought and reflection. Questions are asked around time spent on an activity, why it was done, what was learned and can it be shared with others. The pre-review template and review process agree much with guided reflective theory developed by Johns (1995) where he suggests a series of questions can challenge the motivation and rationale for actions. These questions from a third party can help guide learners through the reflective process.
Johns suggested reflective diaries and sharing experience with others can lead to a greater understanding than reflections done alone. Though I do not keep a written diary of reflection I do reflect constantly and can relate to Schon’s ‘reflection in action’ and ‘reflection on’ practice. I also incorporate much of Rolfe (2000) Driscoll’s (2000) thinking by asking what, so what and now what into my practice. Another simple strategy I endorse and find useful is SWOT analysis, a technique accredited to Albert Humphrey in the 1950’s that asks practitioners to scrutinize their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Practitioners can also be unaware of issues in their own practice, this is suggested by the Jo Harari window, developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955; it proposes that others see things about us to which we may be blind. New objectives and action plans can then be agreed and formalised. Feedback from supervision and annual review meetings help to evaluate work and clarify agreed targets and future development tasks. The meetings also offer a platform to formally raise concerns or requests for training.
A training request was made after I became aware of a number of young people in school who seemed to be unmotivated, withdrawn or depressed. I had no knowledge of mental health issues and felt out of my depth to offer solutions and wanted to be able to offer better front-line support. I approached my line-manager and it was suggested I investigate possible training options. I later attended three one day courses on adolescent mental health that were free of charge and run by Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH).
The training was around spotting mental health disorders, early intervention and ideas for support in school. Networking is also a valuable source of gathering information and developing support channels. It was through a network that I learned of the free training delivered by CAMHS. Another effective learning tool is observation. Feedback from formal interview observations and those from colleagues, teachers, pupils, parents and others has benefited my overall reflections and development by highlighting levels of performance.
Critical thinking allows me to analyse different qualities, talents, views and opinions of others. I often ask myself whether I would have handled a situation differently to a colleague and would my actions have made the situation better or worse? Writing regular case studies has been useful when reflecting on my work. They help me focus on what went well and what hasn’t gone so well. The discipline of writing down events and analysing them requires much deeper thought processes.
Attending regular training events and seminars ensures I remain up to date with new practice, law and policy changes. Training has broadened my knowledge around specialist areas such as homelessness and sex education. Some training programmes are also compulsory requirements of Babcock and include child protection training or online courses like equality and diversity. Attendance at staff meetings keep me up to date with events in the careers industry and practice at a local level. Often meetings include training workshops, group discussions and presentations from guest speakers.
As a group member of the Career Development Institute I receive regular updates, advice and information on topical subjects through journals and annual conferences. In summary CPD is an investment that gives professionals a methodical structure to directly link learning with practice. It records learning undertaken and helps plot any future training. Confidence and professional credibility can be boosted and it may accelerate career advancement. Through creative thinking and tackling new challenges personal interest and job satisfaction can also be increased.