Continuing professional development: putting the learner back at the centre

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Continuing professional development (CPD) is changing. Once seen as flexible on the basis of personal choice and mainly consisting of conferences and lecture style meetings, it is now much more likely to be specified, mandatory and linked to specific regulatory or quality improvement activities. This may not be well aligned with how adult professionals learn best and the evidence of resulting change in practice is limited. Also there is a danger of losing out on serendipity in learning by pushing experienced professionals into focusing excessively on mandatory activities that seem to be increasingly ‘ticking the box’. However, the previous impression of flexibility may have hidden poor education practice. This paper defines CPD and asks whether there are problems with CPD. It looks at how adults are thought to learn and places this in the context of current practice. It considers practical models of how to deal with a series of common challenges met by those who provide and undertake CPD.

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