Research shows value of Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

What evidence is there that Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is effective? Research already exists on the value and impact of CPD on individuals but little on its value and impact on the professions, the general public and the employers.

To help address this knowledge gap, STEP was one of the partners in a research consortium that carried out a survey of public attitudes into CPD. The other partners were the Association for Project Management (APM), the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the Intellectual Property Regulation Board (IPReg) and the commercial sponsors were MetaCapability and Silverbear. The research looked at how:

  • The public/consumers perceive CPD and its importance in consumer decision-making when selecting a service provider, and
  • Professionals perceive CPD and their awareness of the impact of CPD on their professional profile and career.

The research also aimed to look at the motivations and barriers for undertaking CPD, and what it needs to ‘look’ like to be of value. The survey included 70 professional bodies, interviews with six professional bodies to develop case studies, over 1,000 public responses between 2 and 7 December 2020, and a literature review.

The key findings were that:

  • 48 per cent of the public were aware of CPD, with 58 per cent saying they would consult an online register to verify if a professional was undertaking CPD;
  • 55 per cent of professional bodies mandate CPD, with an equal split between professional bodies that are based on measuring the amount of activity or self-reflection CPD;
  • 64 per cent professional bodies had not attempted to measure the impact of CPD on their members;
  • 92 per cent of professionals undertook CPD to further their career, 92 per cent for the enjoyment of learning and developing skills and 69 per cent because they were mandated to;
  • 71 per cent of professionals thought CPD took up too much time;
  • 59 per cent of professionals thought CPD should involve technical content relevant to their role, compared to 34 per cent who thought it should cover ethics;
  • 46 per cent of professionals favour conferences, seminars, webinars or workshops and
  • 70 per cent of professionals thought CPD should be aligned to career progression.

Several key changes were advanced by professional bodies including:

  • Providing ‘bite sized’ CPD formats (55 per cent);
  • Developing digital learning platforms (55 per cent) and
  • Creating easier access (47 per cent).

The value of CPD is often assumed, yet the research identified ‘that more effort is put into communicating CPD value to those who undertake it rather than their employers or their clients’. It also found that ‘what is being communicated is often not backed up by value assessment and research. As a result, it can be little more than commonly held assumptions that are being circulated in some/many cases’.

STEP is undertaking a review of its current approach to CPD, and the CPD working group is taking these findings into account to help shape that work. STEP provides an array of resources to keep you up to date with the latest developments, and to build your skills and knowledge. The Knowledge Hub brings all of these resources together into one place. All of these resources count towards members’ annual CPD requirement, and are available here: https://www.step.org/knowledge-hub/knowledge

Sarah Manuel, Professional Standards Manager

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