Back in July, we reported on the Association for Project Management‘s (APM) series of thought leadership articles about their road to chartership.
We’re delighted that our very own Professor Andy Friedman, CEO of PARN, recently wrote one of APM’s papers in the series, this time focusing on continuing professional development (CPD).
Scroll down to read an exclusive snippet!
In this world of rapidly improving technology, shifting legal constraints and expanding competition often associated with globalisation, the presumption that a professional who qualified 10 or 20 years ago is still competent to practise without further learning is just not credible. Even those who come to a profession later in their working life cannot allow their learning and development to stop once they attain a new qualification. CPD signals a commitment by professionals and their professional bodies that qualification is not regarded as a one-off activity – that competence to practise can be, and in most cases will be, regularly developed and reviewed.
Of course, long before the arrival of CPD, good professionals always kept up to date, reflected on their practice, looked to improve their knowledge and planned development activities. However, before CPD, there was no organised, widely held system for evidencing such activities beyond those that led to specific higher-level qualifications. Increasingly, one must not only keep up to date, but also be seen to be keeping up to date. As a systematic method of organising such activities, CPD facilitates the visibility of these efforts, and therefore their legitimacy in this world of transparency and accountability.
Professional bodies have been critical in delivering this change in expectation of professionals. It is professional bodies that have largely promulgated the concept of CPD. They monitor and evaluate CPD, and can accredit individual compliance with a formal CPD policy. This has had a profound effect on the operation of professional bodies, the activities of professions and the very nature of professionalism.
Professional bodies have, in the past, regulated professionals using three primary methods or ‘pillars’ of professionalism (Friedman and Hanson, 2010).
The first method is entry qualifications, whether by examination after formal training, recommendation after apprenticeship, approved prior learning or presentation of a portfolio of work judged to be of sufficient quality and relevance. These continue to be the primary means of distinguishing professionals.
Entry qualifications have been supplemented for many years by complaints and disciplinary procedures to sanction those found to be incompetent, incapable or untrustworthy. This second pillar of professionalism is guided by codes of ethics, and operates through investigative procedures, hearings and appeals processes. There has always been a third method of regulating professionals, but it has, until CPD, been far less visible outside the professions. This is the positive support for good professional practice offered by professional bodies. It includes organising seminars and conferences, publishing information that can guide practice, providing helplines and advice, and running member networks, including branches, special interest groups and specialist groups. These all contribute to communities of practice and the culture of professionalism that allows new knowledge and good practice techniques to be generated and disseminated. CPD has become the mainstay of this third pillar of professionalism, systemising development activities and helping to make them potentially visible to other professionals, clients/ patients, employers and the general public.
This is a significant change. CPD has formalised this third pillar of professional regulation and makes it not only more visible, but also potentially more closely connected to improvements in practice and in impacts on those receiving professional services.
Professional bodies have always recorded attendance at events and meetings. However, the motivation for this was recording the popularity of events; attendance would be added up to show the events’ success in terms of attracting members and covering costs. What did not occur was reviewing which individual members attended. It is the tracking of individual member activities, and/or their plans and reflections on the contributions of activities to their learning and practice, that is new with CPD. This has made professional bodies more closely linked to the ongoing practice of professionals, and professionals have, consequently, become more engaged with their professional bodies.