Recording and planning professional development activities

Assessing where you’re at

Part of being a reflective practitioner (whatever your practice may be) is identifying areas for improvement and planning your professional development activities accordingly.  However, coming up with a list of the competencies, skills and knowledge areas relevant to your profession is a huge task, and that’s even before you start analysing how well you are meeting those criteria!

Thankfully, many professional associations and educational institutions have created lists of core competencies that you can use to assess your skill set and plan your future professional development activities.

Here are some example core competencies:

The Australian Community Workers Association: Core Competencies – be sure to open the link to download the full competency list which is much more comprehensive

CSWE Ten Core Competencies of Social Work Practice

CBT Competencies Framework – competencies required for delivering CBT

Competencies for Trainers – from the North American Resource Centre for Child Welfare

Core Competencies for Health Promotion Practitioners – from the Australian Health Promotion Association

The 9 Core Competencies of Administration Professionals

The Library and Information Sector: Knowledge, Skills and Attributes – this is the standard that I use to assess my skills

Once you’ve decided on your competency framework (or if you’ve designed your own!), you need to assess how you currently measure up against these competencies.  One example of how to do this is based on the CBT Competencies Framework (above).  On the  UCL CORE page  scroll to the bottom of the page and open the self assessment tool.  You’ll notice essentially all that has been done is the competencies have been moved to an Excel spreadsheet and there is an ability to mark red, amber, or green against each competency, depending on perceived level of skill in the area.

An electronic document, like an Excel spreadsheet, is a useful way to record your assessment of your ability to meet core competencies as you can adjust it as you engage in PD activities.  You may want to use a different scale rather than the “red, amber, green”, e.g. 1 – 5, where 1 is no to little skills in the area and 5 is fully competent in the area.  For example, in one area I might mark myself a 2 because I’ve studied it, but not yet used it in the workplace. 

Once you’ve gone through this process it can be easier to see where your gaps are and plan professional development activities to meet these gaps.

Recording professional development

You will be aware of the organisational requirements around recording professional development, including the PD register and reflection questions (on SiteMap in Human Resources – Forms).  But have you considered recording your PD activities for your own reference and use? 

Each year, week, day you may be undertaking activities which expand your professional knowledge and increase your employability and “promotability”, as well as making you a better practitioner.  Activities may be formal learning, professional reading, learning to use new computer programs, clinical supervision sessions, participating in a new work activities, acting in a different work role, one of the activities that may have been mentioned on the blog, and much more.  All this work that you are doing can be recorded to help you reflect on how you are meeting your profession’s competencies.  The more you record and reflect on your competencies the more confident you can be in your professional development.

One method of recording your PD is creating an ePortfolio.  This YouTube clip gives you a quick overview.  

If you are a student, you probably already have access to an ePortfolio through your institution.  If you aren’t that lucky, here are some options for ePortfolio software:

Folioforme – Free online ePortfolio, powered by Mahara (see below)

Mahara – Free downloadable ePortfolio software, designed in New Zealand

Pebblepad – Designed in the UK.  Many universities use this as their ePortfolio platform (QUT, LaTrobe, Charles Sturt).  Available at a cost

N.B. you could use Excel, Word, a blog, or a wiki to record your PD too; you don’t have to use ePortfolios!!

Using your recorded PD activities

Taking the opportunity to reflect on your professional growth, and the activities which contribute to it, can allow insight into the skills you have.

You can use your recorded professional development activities in performance reviews and in answering selection criteria.  In fact, sometimes you can cut and paste directly out of your ePortfolio into a job application!

You can also use the fact that you are monitoring your professional knowledge gaps to answer one of the most challenging questions in interview situations, “What are your weaknesses?”

Answer: “I’ve assessed my skills against these competencies and have identified these areas for improvement.  I plan to address these areas by doing this.” Brilliant!

How do you currently record your PD?  Are there competency standards that you find useful when assessing your professional skill set?

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