How best to plan personal and professional development

The Social Work Task Force found that take up of continuing professional development was inconsistent. Helen Donnellan and Gordon Jack explain how social workers can take responsibility for their own professional development

1 Continuing professional development (CPD) has traditionally been based on a variety of competencies, standards and outcomes. Regard them as structures to guide and support the development of your own personal development plan (PDP).

2 Remember that CPD can be based on almost anything that you do, including informal learning and the issues and challenges raised in day-to-day practice, as well as going away on courses.

3 Undertake a self-assessment of your learning needs in relation to the standards for your post, identifying any gaps and suggesting a concrete plan to meet them. Regularly update your personal development plan and use the objectives to identify training and to guide the types of work allocated to you. Take the lead in ensuring you discuss your PDP in supervision.

4 Post-registration training and learning (PRTL) is a key condition for continued registration as a qualified social worker and the General Social Care Council codes of practice specify that your employer must have a mechanism for recording and tracking all CPD activities. Line managers have a key role to play here in supporting your development pathway.

5 Keep a journal of your practice decisions – using critical analysis and reflection on your experiences will help you to discover links between your own practice, that of your colleagues, and the culture and strategies of your agency. It will also provide a rich source of evidence for inclusion in more formal post-qualifying studies.

6 Casting a critical eye over your practice is an important component of CPD. It should already be a central element in the organisational arrangements for supervision. It may have been squeezed out by procedural, managerial or bureaucratic approaches or you may have been suppressing the process of self reflection as a personal coping strategy, when thinking about your work is too stressful or painful. None of these reasons for limiting reflections on your practice and experience should be allowed to continue unresolved. The services provided to vulnerable and disadvantaged people depend on effective processes for encouraging and supporting the capacity to think reflectively about your work and your personal and professional development.

Extracted from The Survival Guide for Newly-qualified Child & Family Social Workers – Hitting the Ground Running, by Helen Donnellan & Gordon Jack, published on 15 November 2009 by Jessica Kingsley

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