Continuing Professional Development and The Reflective Practitioner Model

{Scales, Pickering, & Senior, 2011. Continuing Professional Development in the Lifelong Learning Sector.}

This document serves as my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) plan and decision tool.

I situate myself as a practitioner in adult and lifelong learning.

Adult learning has at its core the concepts of learner needs emanating from real-life situations, personalized learning, initiative, and responsibility.

My professional identity builds around autonomy, specialist knowledge, and responsibility.

If I am a professional practitioner, I am responsible for being professional, which is served by engaging in meaningful CPD.

The purpose of engaging specialist content knowledge is to better the lives of the learner so that they may live a better life and serve their communities and organizations more effectively.

The master skill necessary for each learner is learning to learn, taking responsibility for their learning, and becoming masters of self-regulated learning.

Every person lives in a local context, exclusive in its characteristics yet embedded in the larger whole and inclusive of all human conditions. At the next move, the individualized should be linked to the socialized.

CPD in the lifelong learning sector

CPD is intended to impact practice and the learner experience positively.

CPD is guided by my personal needs, aspirations, and gaps, in short, by my whole situation. It is also guided by my commitment to contribute to the general practice of adult, independent, lifelong learning of real people.

As a coach, mentor, and teacher, I aspire to be values-driven, have an eye on pragmatics, be fully supportive of personal development, and be considerate of organizational needs and benefits to other stakeholders of the larger domain.

There are two distinct endeavors in my CPD. First, I embark on journeys to well-known destinations, such as toward achieving a particular goal. Second, I go out exploring, finding things out without necessarily knowing the final destination and where I will end up, following unfamiliar ideas and ill-defined goals, and engaging in experiment and action research.

Control has the purpose of reducing and eliminating ambiguity. The real world is messy; there is no possibility of control in the idealized sense. By reducing ambiguity inside a tightly defined boundary, you get two consequences; inside the boundary, rigidity and thus fragility increases; at the interface to the external, adaptive responsiveness decreases. None of these serves you in the longer term.

Structured CPD framework

The purpose of a structure is to provide the means for coordinating vertical and horizontal integration. Vertical integration between set learning and action goals, the learner’s needs, values and commitments, and the organization’s mission and goals. Horizontal integration in the communication between stakeholders, the temporal and sequential building of capabilities set in a strategic context, ensuring feedback and follow-up, and ensuring evaluation and assessment to further progress.

CPD is a learning tool guiding the learner through the learning cycle. It ensures the acquisition and gaining ownership of knowledge and skills. It helps to engage and clarify one’s internal dialogue and improve one’s practice quality through theory building and hypothesis testing. In extension, CPD facilitates participation. Social constructivism asserts that people learn best in groups where they can share and develop ideas and contribute to solving problems within a common, shared context. Participation in communities of practice and professional dialogue infuse CPD with meaning, identity, belonging, and community.

As a note, communities of practice may serve as an antidote to learning in context-free environments where learning does not carry over to real life as transferable skills and competence. Establishing learning cultures becomes a practice of contextualized judgment and takes a step away from the search for general recipes.

Adults need to know why they should learn. They need to see the relevance of a skill or knowledge to their sense of self and agency. A deficiency approach will not motivate excellence; building on what is wrong and faulty in oneself is a shaky ground for self-improvement.

As an alternative to the traditional deficiency focus, we may start by recognizing existing strengths and capacities, what is already achieved and can be built on.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) provides a method to serve as such a lens where we start by looking at what does work and the existing strengths and abilities of members, turning inquiries into collaborative opportunities and exploring possibilities.

An adaptation of the AI process of 4D’s; Discover, Dream, Design, Destiny; is the 4I’s model; Initiate, Inquire, Imagine, Innovate:

Initiate: Introduce the principles of AI to the whole organization and explain its core message of improvement built on positives. Get the big picture of the project in place and identify areas to work on and people to work on them.

Inquire: Get people talking and finding out about each other and themselves. Find out what kind of organization they want and what they can do to bring it about through unstructured or semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Encourage creative listening. Listen without prejudice or preconceptions.

Imagine: Collate and share the key themes which emerge from inquiries and develop ideas and possible, even provocative, solutions. Share and validate them with as many people as possible.

Innovate: Begin the process. Keep people involved in conversations about the change. Review and adapt change in light of discussion and evaluation.

Learning Organizations

You will encounter situations where the primary goal is to cope and adapt, and the primary mode is to push and get over with. A continuous learning and improvement mindset will, additionally, bring a focus on generative learning and creating futures, pulling up to a vision and actively enlisting processes to enable and encourage taking on challenges.

The five disciplines of a learning organization are delineated by Senge (1992) as personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning, and systems thinking.

Personal mastery

What is your vision of what you can do?

What is your sense of agency, your belief in what you can do, your belief that you can make a difference, that you can make things happen rather than just having things happen to you?

An ethos of appreciative inquiry might be more conducive to personal mastery than an imposition of external standards and procedures.

Mental models

Models of how the world works, conceptions of how we do things or how things should be done, prejudices, and assumptions inform our everyday thinking and doing.

Mental models are very helpful in reducing the cognitive load in dealing with the world; they are also very dangerous since we are committed to them to the exclusion of responsive action and choice. These commitments create a bias for advocacy and a reactive defensiveness to appear rational when our views are challenged. Advocacy needs to be balanced by inquiry and non-committed observation. Beware that changing mental models makes us feel vulnerable and can trigger all kinds of feeling inadequate and lesser than. Actively emphasize the courage in embarking on a change project of the inner kind.

Shared vision

Commitment based on the involvement of all staff is essential. Compliance with an imposed vision does not generate the same energy and engagement.

Appreciative inquiry guides us through the “inquire and imagine” stages to bring to light resources and formulate images of a preferred future; these may be employed in the discipline of shared vision. 

Team learning

Teams provide the platform for challenging personal and collective mental models, imagining futures and committing to shared visions, collaborating to generate knowledge, and making it accessible for learning.

Systems thinking

Linking parts, spanning boundaries, understanding that structures and functions are human-made distinctions, and seeing the benefits of cooperation and collaboration.

A structured CPD, appreciative inquiry, and organizational learning provide the dynamic ground to flourish in our personal and professional development endeavors.

Being a professional in the adult learning sector

My CPD is based on critical reflection on learning experiences and activities that improve my practice and demonstrate my continuous development as an educator, coach, and mentor.

I am committed to self-improvement and aim for high performance and self-regulated learning.

As a stratified endeavor, CPD unfolds in 3 interlinked layers;

updating (teaching and) learning, personal and professional development, flourishing, thriving, and growth (through mastery in the facilitation of the engagement process, whether in communication or conversation); 

updating subject specialization, evidence-base; 

updating on national initiatives and the wider context

Beyond the success of a work session or workshop, as a professional, I aim to ensure I am reflecting, reviewing, and evaluating on a wider level; I aim to ensure I am working with the correct, most up-to-date, vocationally relevant information to the learner.

One possible way to ensure goal attainment is to provide compelling evidence of CPD under all three headings above.

CPD is about learning; my personalized agenda recognizes my professional needs and engages me in important and relevant activities as a lifelong learner.

CPD feeds into a feeling of autonomy; organizational systems should provide frameworks and support for this personalized CPD.

Purposeful CPD primarily benefits the professional and their clients or learners. It is an obligation to our organization, colleagues, and the profession.

It is also a device to rekindle our motivations and renew our purpose to practice in generative relationships.

As a professional, I agree to abide by the ethical codes of conduct of international associations of the profession in integrity, reasonable care, respect, and responsibility.

I freely disclose my education, experience, behavior, and values;

I freely share my specialist knowledge and understanding for further public scrutiny.

I welcome comments on my professional identity.

I commit to demonstrating my knowledge and understanding in public seminars and presentations.

I take on the following values and responsibilities:

I take client (student) learning and the coaching process to be of primary importance.

I maintain loyalty to clients (students) and colleagues.

I view the building and accessing resources for the client based on client needs as my primary educator responsibility.

I build on my autonomy as a professional and provide autonomy support for the client.

I subject my practice to supervision to assess and ensure quality and ethical service delivery.

I display appropriate conduct and behaviors towards clients and colleagues.

Principles of ethical conduct always supersede personal values and visions of effective practice or scholarly commitments.

I claim the rights to

I reserve the right to claim commensurate pay and conditions for my services.

I claim autonomy to prepare, plan, and deliver teaching and coaching sessions.

I claim respect as a professional and status in the eye of the community and the wider society.

My professionalism flows from my identity and values, which I have freely chosen to build upon a life of purpose and meaning. 

As I have freely chosen my identity and values, I may also be delighted to transform them in light of a larger vision or purpose.