Using theory and research to shape the practice of continuing professional development

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As research has expanded in scope and diversity, application of new ideas to the programs that facilitate learning and change should have grown accordingly. However, the gap between the theories of how and why physicians learn and change their practices and the practical application of these theories appears to be wider. The research component of research and development in continuing professional development appears to be strong, but the development function appears to be weak. This presentation will describe some of the factors that have led to this gap between theory and practice and suggest some actions that may be taken to reduce this gap. Among the factors leading to the gap are the different perspectives of practitioners and scholars as to the purposes of research, the appropriate foci of studies, and the attributes of quality of studies related to continuing professional development. A traditional model of research is discussed and analyzed for its strengths and weaknesses as they relate to writing research that is relevant to practitioners. The role and function of the research problem and the conclusions of studies are described in terms of how these two parts of a research report can assist in the translation of theory and evidence into the practice. In order to illustrate how theory may be translated into practical tools and procedures, the application of the theory of change and learning to the assessment of readiness to change is reviewed briefly. Implications of this experience are described and steps that may be helpful in bridging the gap between theory and practice will be proposed. Finally, a system of research and development that can ensure a tighter link between research and practice is proposed. The next steps to achieve this kind of system are suggested in the conclusions.

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