Making CPD sexy - so what exactly is CPD?

“Continuing professional development is the action we take to maintain, update and grow.”

Beavers & Rae “Learning & Development Practice” 2010


Very simply it is about: planning your learning, reflecting on it and then adapting so that what you have learnt makes a difference to what you do. CPD ties in with Kolb’s experiential learning cycle where we have an experience, reflect, conceptualise and then experiment to come up with new ways of working. It is a continuous cycle.

“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”

Confucius 450 BC

 This is one of my favourite quotes and for me epitomises the importance of why CPD and conscious learning are important. I am not suggesting that some people are unconscious, but what I mean is that when we consciously pause and think about what we are about to learn, there are things we will get from the learning that are expected. So that is the planning part – we stop and pause and think – “what will I get from this learning?” “What would I like to get from this?” When we reflect after the learning, we will either confirm what we set out to achieve or we may be surprised at the other “unexpected” things that we learnt from the learning.

 Peter Honey, in his publication “Continuing Personal Development” (2007) says that: “CPD, despite being a straightforward process, has become over-complicated and bureaucratic.” It is because of this that in spite of its many benefits, CPD for many has become an administrative exercise, rather than an exploration of new thinking, knowledge or skills.

The CIPD in their factsheet on CPD say “We prefer to focus on output rather than the input of the development activity”. They go on to discuss how the hours spent training are not the key but what value the learning has given to you to improve some aspect of your performance.

CPD is about development – becoming better at something, which may mean practicing a skill, or increasing your knowledge, discarding unwanted habits, updating beliefs, learning to manage your emotions. Every part of you is open to the learning experience. If you see learning as part of your role, it ceases to be a separate task and becomes integrated into your every day activities.

Peter Honey in his publication “How to become a more effective learner” says “Changes are bigger and happening faster. Learning is the way to keep ahead”. So in order to be a “professional”, keeping ahead should be part of our every day activities. The variety of things you can do to “Keep ahead” are endless, from watching a TED talk to a chance conversation with a stranger on the bus. There is a whole spectrum of opportunities out there ,that if we only reflected, we could extract some valuable learning from.

The last part of CPD we have not explored is the “Continuing” bit. If we can see the benefits of CPD we will be convinced and motivated to do it continually, rather than occasionally, under sufferance. So let us just explore the reasons why CPD may not be integrated into everyone’s role: fear of failure, fear of success,  too busy, it is boring, no seen benefit just to mention a few.

 When you were a child, learning was something you did every day, before you even went to school. It was something we did naturally and incorporating the new learning worked well – if I fell over because I walked to fast for my current walking skills, I slowed down. There was no form to fill out, no learning plan to write, no 1-2-1 with my mother to discuss the best way forward.

Reflecting, which is a big part of CPD – can be “in action” - while you are doing it or “on action” after you have done it. The benefits of reflecting “in action’ can be that we adjust what we are doing, as we are doing it and avoid making a mistake. “On action” helps us to make a plan for the future to avoid making the same mistake again.

If we are proactive in our approach to learning, then we would make a plan to address an identified learning need and then undertake the learning planned. If we are reactive that usually happens when we have reflected on action and found that there was something awry. We would then undertake some learning at a later date to address the need identified.

Learning can also be formal or informal. If we only concentrate on the formal, we miss a lot of learning opportunities. Informal is easy to note and reflect on but informal can be messier and harder to define. The point from this is that there are a myriad of ways to learn but we have to be conscious of them.

As a starter here are some of the ways in which we can learn:

  • Analysing mistakes
  • Analysing successes
  • Being coached
  • Covering holidays
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Job rotation
  • Reading
  • Problem solving
  • Project work
  • Unfamiliar tasks
  • Coping with changes

So come on – give CPD a chance – make it sexy and keep yourself up to the minute as an L&D professional! Take a look at our Prezi on the subject below 

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