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The CPD Research Project

The CPD Research Project is an ongoing university based research project exploring a number of issues around Continuing Professional Development.

The project is part of the Professional Development Consortium. It is supported by Kingston University Business School, as well as an increasing number of professional bodies and employers.

Answering Our Questions

We are conducting research through “CPD Conversations” involving a variety of professionals and organisations.

Our CPD Conversations will include:

  • Focus groups and pilot studies on innovative ways of undertaking CPD
  • Interviews with regulators, professional bodies and employers on the evolving requirements for CPD and ways of delivering it
  • Interviews with CPD providers on how standards of provision are being improved, including innovative approaches to professional development
  • Case studies on interesting approaches to CPD

The findings will be fed into the practice of CPD via professionals, employers, training providers and institutes with the aim of bringing improvements to the workplace.

Organisations we have, or are currently, working with:

  • Association of Project Management
  • Aviva
  • British Psychological Society – Department of Occupational Psychology
  • CPD Institute
  • Engineering Council
  • Financial Skills Partnership
  • Global PA Network – A membership organisation representing over 5000 PAs and Secretaries
  • Kingston University Business School
  • Memberwise – A network of over 1,250 professional associations and membership bodies
  • Nationwide Building Soceity
  • Redland Solutions
  • Royal Statistical Society
  • Science Council
  • The Professionalism Group – A group which helps individuals and organisations to develop professionalism

“This research has given me a whole new perspective on CPD”  – Steve Billingham, Director of Steve Billingham Consulting

 The CPD Research Project:  A phased approach to research

Phase 1: Understanding CPD

Its first phase ‘Understanding CPD’ began exploratory work with a number of professional bodies and employers, and developed a core understanding of CPD by asking:

How do individual professionals perceive and understand CPD?
What organisational benefits does CPD have in terms of work engagement and citizenship behavious?
Are there differences in the effectiveness of CPD activities or schemes?

The main findings of this research are:

  • Everyone does CPD, mostly as part of their job (eg searching the internet for information, learning from formal and informal team discussions, and attending conferences and seminars). But often many of these activities are not recognised as CPD.
  • The overwhelming majority engage in CPD because they think it helps them to do their jobs better. A smaller number also think that CPD can advance their careers. 65% of project managers, for example, were so convinced of the benefits that they had paid for some CPD out of their own pockets.
  •  Individuals who are more heavily engaged in CPD tend to be more committed to their work and to be ‘good citizens’ in the workplace (ie to go the extra mile for their colleagues and the organisation). Might CPD be good for the employer, as well as for the individual? Despite this possibility, there is a widespread view that employers do not provide enough time and financial support for CPD.
  • Some respondents have had very positive experiences of CPD – for example: ‘The do-reflect-improve approach proved what I did know, highlighted weaknesses and filled the gap.’ ‘Learning outside the organisation allows time to reflect on what you are doing and your role.’
  • But there are also many negative experiences: ‘All I hear about CPD is rather woolly.’ ‘It becomes a case of trying to justify a CPD activity in order to be able to tick a box and allocate hours.’ ‘CPD is not rigorous and tested to ensure good learning.’ Many respondents described poor training courses.

Phase 2:  CPD Futures

The second phase of the CPD Research Project – “CPD Futures” – considers how the future of CPD may look.  Now an independent and separate entity to the CPD Research Project, and the Professional Development Consortium*, CPD Futures explores the following questions:

How can CPD be used as a lever for innovation, such as ‘problem solving’ everyday work challenges and issues?
How can CPD be more directly relevant to individuals’ jobs?
What is the potential of relational forms of CPD, such as collaborative circles?
How can CPD  be better recognised, for example, through social recognition?
How can CPD provision be improved, including the use of ‘output’ and ‘outcome’ measurements to evaluate CPD learning?
How can CPD be made more relevant to employers?
What might the future of professional development, including new forms of CPD, look like?

CPD Futures has identified that CPD works best for individuals when it is:

  • Relevant – ‘The best experiences are those that enable you…to use CPD at work to immediately improve on performance.’
  • Collaborative (ie done with other people) – ‘Presenting my work to colleagues produced positive feedback and lively debate on my findings.’
  • Recognised – ‘The trouble with CPD is that you have to do it, you do it on your own and it’s not recognised.’
  • Personal – ‘CPD works best if it is led by the individual.’

CPD has a poor reputation for rigor and value, it remains too biased toward technical rather than soft skills, many people equate it too closely with ‘going on a course’ and linkages are insufficiently strong between those with a stake in CPD (institutes, employers, CPD providers and individuals).

Yet if CPD is done well, it has substantial potential to improve performance, increase innovation and enhance the quality of working life.

* CPD Futures is led by Dr. Michael Moynagh of the Tomorrow Project.  It is now an independent entity from the CPD Research Project, and no longer works with the Professional Development Consortium.

Phase 3: Recognising CPD Success

The research project is currently in its third phase entitled ‘Recognising and Celebrating CPD Success’. More information about this phase will be available shortly.