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What’s getting in my way?

Gwyn Owen looks at obstacles to CPD and finds ways of tackling them

Although continuing professional development (CPD) is vital for our ongoing competence to practice, it often falls down the bottom of our ‘to do’ lists because of competing pressures for our time and energy.

Earlier features have focused on finding time for CPD (Frontline 20 April, 4 May and 18 May 2011), and the activities suggested should help. The CSP’s webfolio should also save time by pulling CPD information, ideas and activities together into one space.

If you’re still struggling, it’s worth asking some questions to discover what may be getting in your way.

What’s CPD for?

In some cases, the obstacle is not being sure what you’re meant to be doing or why.

CPD itself is not a new phenomenon. The link between CPD and ongoing competence to practice is seen across the various editions of the CSP’s Codes of Conduct, and associated Standards of Practice.

Its centrality is even more obvious in the CSP’s revised code of professional values and behaviours, presented to CSP Council in June. CPD underpins each of the four principles within that code. It enables CSP members to take responsibility for their actions, to behave ethically and to provide an effective service and is a key part of the quest for excellence.


If CPD has always been central to our practice, however, why do so many people feel confused or anxious about it?

One significant change in the past decade is that evidence of ongoing CPD is now linked to professional regulation. So the Health Professions Council (HPC) has an interest in it.


What is required of me?

The HPC’s standards expect registrants to keep a log of their learning, and to show how it has improved the quality of services and benefited the service user (see

Other audiences have an interest in our CPD too. Employers expect us – associates as well as physios – to be able to demonstrate specific sets of behaviours, knowledge and skills (collectively known as competencies) to deliver a service that’s ‘fit for purpose’. If competencies are linked to pay and progression, failure to demonstrate a specific set at a particular level may stop a promotion.

Despite its obvious connection with quality of care, access to CPD is often compromised when purse-strings tighten, and this can be a cause of anxiety.


How do I focus my CPD?

Almost any experience can have a CPD potential (see ‘Creating CPD opportunities’, Frontline 4 May 2011), so it can sometimes be quite difficult to know which learning experiences to focus on. If you’re not sure of your goal, it’s hard to work out what to do.

The key point here is to analyse the behaviours, knowledge and skills you use in your day-to-day practice and to develop a list of those that you want to develop.

One place to start is with a job description – either your existing one, or if you’re wanting to shift into a new role, one that’s relevant to that role. The CSP’s Physiotherapy Framework will also help you map your behaviours, knowledge and skills and there are forms within the society’s CPD webfolio to help you plan your learning. 

How do I learn best?

Once you’ve decided which particular behaviours, knowledge or skills you want to develop, the next step is to look for opportunities to match the needs identified.

It’s quite important at this stage to think broadly – to help you recognise all the options available, both formal (participation in study days, online modules, journal clubs and in-service training for example) and informal (opportunities such as shadowing practice, peer or group reflection, personal study, contributing to online discussion via iCSP).

Once you’ve mapped all the opportunities available, it’s time to start critically evaluating them. If there is more than one that would meet your learning needs, ask yourself which opportunity would be most effective and efficient. That’s where self-awareness of our learning needs and preferences is essential.

  • Do I learn best by experimenting and problem-solving?
  • Do I need to understand the underpinning theory before learning a skill?
  • Do I like pictures and mind-maps?
  • Do I learn through listening to stories?
  • Do I need to read information in order to understand it?

Working through this process systematically enables us to make informed choices and create robust arguments to support the case for accessing a particular CPD opportunity. Keeping a record of this decision-making process will be useful later on, for evaluating the effectiveness of that learning.


What’s my recording style?

To use naturally occurring opportunities, we need to find a way to record information about the opportunity itself, the learning process and the outcome. As with finding our personal learning style, it’s helpful to choose the recording method that feels most natural.

It’s now easier than ever to record information digitally. Could the mobile phone help support CPD? It could certainly help record the learning process or outcome. Most phones can record voice (a reflective monologue or dialogue) and take photos (for example, a decision tree or list of priorities developed in a team meeting). That approach could save time and be especially useful if the information needs to be shared with the group responsible for creating it.

If you’re more comfortable with the physicality of paper and pen, that’s fine too. Paper-based forms can be useful in recording expectations, learning process and outcomes from an in-service training session, for example. Please visit the CSP’s CPD webfolio to access easily downloadable forms to help you record and evaluate your learning.

However we choose to record information, we must store the record safely. It needs to be easy to find in, say, six months or a year’s time, to critically evaluate how that learning has changed our practice.


How can I reclaim my CPD?

Rather than seeing CPD as something somebody else is making you do in a particular way, can the anxiety be reduced by reclaiming CPD as something that’s yours?

If you know who you are as a learner and what you want to achieve, you can start engaging in learning that will be effective, efficient and enjoyable. You can develop a way of recording your learning (process and outcomes) in a way that suits you while letting you produce information and evidence of your CPD for a variety of audiences – whether the HPC, your appraiser or a prospective employer. fl

How to use this towards your CPD


Recording styles

  • How do you record your learning process and outcomes?
  • Are they recorded in a way that suits your needs?
  • Are they stored in a way that’s easy to find and use later?

Do you want to change how you record or store records of your learning process and outcomes?


  • Think about methods that might suit you better.
  • Could these vary in different circumstances?
  • Forms to help you plan and record your learning are easy to find through the CSP’s CPD webfolio, at
  • The forms available can be downloaded and completed on your PC or laptop or by hand. Or they can be processed online and then automatically saved into your CSP ePortfolio account.
  • The CSP is working to develop examples of different ways of recording CPD. These will be available for you to access via CSP’s CPD webfolio within the next few months. 


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6 July 2011

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