What is it? The long established practice of continuing Professional Development (CPD) spans all professions and learning opportunities. Planning and recording of your continuing professional development should be something everybody does throughout their career.

In reality there are two distinct groups:

  •   Individuals who have to demonstrate CPD to meet their industry standards and continue to practice.
  •   Individuals who maintain their own CPD to ensure currency within their area of expertise.

“Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a process by which individuals take control of their own learning and development, by engaging in an on-going process of reflection and action.  This process is empowering and exciting and can stimulate people to achieve their aspirations and move towards their dreams” (Megginson & Whitaker, 2010).

Let’s think about a definition for CPD here are a few to consider :

  •  CPD is defined as a commitment to structured skills enhancement and personal or professional competence.
  •  CPD can also be defined as the conscious updating of professional knowledge and the improvement of professional competence throughout a person’s working life.

“It is a commitment to being professional, keeping up to date and continuously seeking to improve. It is the key to optimising a person’s career opportunities, both today and for the future” (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2000). “

Professional development

This is the skills and knowledge attained for personal development and career advancement. Professional development encompasses all types of facilitated learning opportunities, ranging from college degrees to formal coursework, conferences and informal learning opportunities situated in practice. It has been described as intensive and collaborative, ideally incorporating an evaluative stage. There are a variety of approaches to professional development, including consultation, coaching, community of practice, lesson study, mentoring, reflective supervision and technical assistance.

“Continuing professional development means maintaining, improving and broadening relevant knowledge and skills in your subject specialism and your teaching and training, so that it has a positive impact on practice and the learner experience… It is the critical reflection on learning experiences and activities that improve practice and demonstrate continuing development as a teacher or trainer” Guidelines for Continuing Professional Development August 2009; Institute for Learning (IfL).

This definition covers three important principles of CPD for you to think about.

  1. Professional updating – which includes your teaching and learning practice and subject specialism (IfL call this ‘dual professionalism’).
  2.   Reflective practice.
  3.   Impact on your learners and their learning.

Principles of CPD

One of the key stakeholders who are also the guardians of the standards for professional development, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, (CIPD) identify the key principles of CPD:

  •  Professional development is a continuous process that applies throughout a practitioner’s working life.
  •   Individuals are responsible for controlling and managing their own development
  •  Individuals should decide for themselves what their learning needs are and how to fulfil them
  •   Learning targets should be clearly articulated and should reflect the needs of employers and clients as well as the practitioner’s individual goals
  •   Learning is most effective when it is acknowledged as an integral part of all work activity rather than an additional burden.

 Learning and the CPD cycle

As adults we participate in many different events and activities every day, but we do not necessarily learn anything from these experiences.  We are often quite unaware, passive or behaving in habitual ways.  We often only recall any exceptional or unusual events.

There are many techniques that have been identified for how we learn and the following model is one that supports the CPD cycle:


Current personal development is more than skills training. It offers useful alternative methods compared to coaching and mentoring too. Effective modern personal development now involves various integrated techniques, theories and behavioural concepts, that extend options around traditional ideas. Optimising individual performance through progressive personal development significantly improves business performance too.

The 21st century has seen a significant growth in on-line professional development. Content providers incorporate collaborative platforms such as discussion boards and wikis, thereby encouraging and facilitating interaction, and optimising training effectiveness.


Consider the following two questions and write a few sentences on each to assist you with the foundation of your own CPD.

Question 1:  What is your own experience of continuing professional development?

Question 2: What value do you currently place on it?

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