CPD: bend it, shape it!

Help shape the profession's future by influencing how students learn, says CSP professional adviser Nina Paterson.


In the last continuing professional development (CPD) article, (17 May 2017), we looked at the CSP's quality assurance role to give you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes. This article continues with the theme of quality in pre-registration education and looks at your role in maintaining it.

While the CSP's campaign focuses on placements, there are many ways to shape and influence what students learn at university. The goal is to encourage you to take up opportunities to shape the profession - after all, the students of today will be your colleagues tomorrow!

Get involved

The last article highlighted the CSP's role in accrediting programmes. These have a formal structure. Prior to a major review, a two-person team (a CSP education rep and a CSP officer) review all of the programme's documentation.

This review covers everything from the aims of the course through to each module specification - going into detail about what will be taught and when, and how it will be taught and assessed. During the event itself, we meet with students, service users and, crucially, the clinicians and managers who take students on placement and employ them once qualified.

As you can imagine these meetings are always lively. Though colleagues frequently have differing perspectives, what always comes through is that everyone there has the profession's best interests at heart. Some discussions are uncomfortable and challenging. But in my 13 years' experience I've only ever seen colleagues respond positively to even the most direct challenge, however hard it has been to hear. As these reviews only take place every five years, grab the chance to be involved.

Teams also welcome input from clinical colleagues about content, relevance and timings of what is being taught in the curriculum. Sometimes this takes the form of focus group-style meetings or they may ask you to review their documentation. There are also other opportunities to get involved - providing feedback about placements, interviewing applicants and delivering lectures. All are ideal avenues for influencing what's being taught.

Constructive criticism

However you choose to get involved, take some time beforehand to identify the issues and consider how to offer solutions to address these concerns. The CPD activities provided will help you to structure your ideas.

And if you don't hear back from a team after you've provided feedback, feel free to question that - your input matters!  fl

CPD activity

Take some time to think through what the issues are with student education and how to resolve them. Look back through your reflections, or the feedback that students have given you. What do they say about you? Are there things that you could change? You might find the journal function or one of the action plan templates within the CSP's ePortfolio useful to record your thoughts and plans for how you are going to resolve the issues.

Are your expectations reasonable? What are you like at giving feedback? How flexible and comfortable are you in your approach when dealing with students who are different to you? How comfortable are you at tackling concerns or failing a student? This may be a difficult question, and we speak to many physiotherapists who don't like doing this. The most commonly cited reason is that they feel like they have failed to help the student. Have you considered how you grade or score compared to those from different organisations within similar settings? Do you pride yourself on being a hard or generous marker? Are you only prepared to give a high grading to a student if they are 'behaving like a band 5'? Is that a reasonable expectation? Are you expecting the students to have the same knowledge that you do now? (This isn't as uncommon as it might sound). If you think that the issue may lie with you, then invest in yourself. Sign up to one of the training or refresher days offered by your local higher education institution, or find a module that helps you develop your teaching skills.

Are you clear about the expectations that emanate from the university? Do you agree with these expectations or is there a tension between your personal views and that of the programme team or link tutor? Do your concerns focus on an isolated incident or a general pattern? How might you explore these with the university? Have you already explored them, and would a formal avenue be appropriate, perhaps? If something isn't resolved, can you find an alternative route? Again, if you are looking for structure, the templates and journal links in the ePortfolio might be useful.

Could you offer something to your local university programme team? Find out how to get involved with what is on offer. Each university will have a means to come together with practice partners to discuss practice placements - and if they don't have, don't be afraid to initiate! If the concerns you've identified are broad ranging, you might want to consider the opportunities mentioned in the main article that will help shape the curriculum content and curriculum design.

Could you offer something nationally? If you are part of a professional network and see a need across several universities, could you offer something different? The CSP is piloting with two professional networks this year to deliver online material to support others to develop skills and competencies. Putting aside the online nature, is there anything that you could develop to support students learning? As a starting point, begin to identify what you want to achieve and why. Will you need to develop a collaborative partnership to take on something of this size? Spend some time thinking through who strategically it might be worth connecting with, or what funding options are available.

And finally
Do it: put it into action. Don't just file your reflections or action plans away - take the next step, put them into action. And remember to look back on them once implemented and evaluate their effectiveness.

Nina Paterson CSP professional adviser

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