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Continuing Professional Development (CPD): Another Perspective

Priscilla Okoye, 12 February 2020

If I asked you why you are undergoing this training or that training, perhaps it may take you a few seconds to give me an answer as it may come across to you for at least those seconds that I have just asked you a dim-witted question seeing that as you may assume, the answer(s) is obvious. However, for politeness or matter of fact’s sake, you may mention one or two of the popular reasons for CPD.

“What is CPD actually?” Another doltish question? C as in continuing, P as in professional and D as in development? “Is that rocket science?” “Is that also difficult to know?” “Well, if you really want to know you may say to me, “it means” as put forth by the Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (ITOL) “the action we take to maintain, update and grow the knowledge and skills required for our professional role”. And before I go further to ask you more questions, and perhaps to show (me) some niceness, you may add that CPD benefits both the professional and the organisation to which a person belongs in that it is an investment in one’s career. It boosts career prospects, increases the quality of work and services provided, it increases job satisfaction and engagement, competitiveness among organizations, employability, professional status/reputation, competence and expertise as it increases the knowledge and skills of staff, keeping them up-to-date with organisational, professional and job requirements.

While employers and organisations would encourage and possibly demand for CPD from their staff for the above benefits, there is yet another reason(s) why it should continue to be encouraged and why you as a staff or a professional should continue to seek it and “fully” engage in it as it comes your way.

Whether for the organisation, for its many benefits, or for the staff/professionals, one thing rings through, one thing is constant; and that is, the individuals involved, the people for which this development is designed and conducted. Since we cannot separate the individual as a person from the professional who undergoes these trainings, it is in order to say that the professional goes through these trainings with the whole or at least most of himself/herself (as a person). Therefore, trainings as a development have implications or impacts on the physiology and psychology of the individual.

Most of the things we do as human beings are motivated, guided by or are upshots of our basic human needs and our quest for happiness or fulfilment in life, hence most of what we engage in impacts on our well-being and mental health. The need to satisfy basic human needs is natural to humans. From the perspective of Self Determination Theory, the three fundamental human needs are autonomy, relatedness, and competence- “the psychological need to interact effectively with one’s environment and to have opportunities to express one’s abilities” (Kirkland et al., 2011: p. 183). CPD strategically positions teachers particularly early years education practitioners to be able to grab and effectively maximize opportunities given that it equips them. It produces competence and increases competence; therefore CPD helps in the satisfaction of a basic human psychological need.

A basic human need as pointed out by Ryan and Deci be it physiological or psychological is “an energising state” that if satisfied, aids and advances health and well-being and impedes or decreases well-being if not satisfied (2000). Well-being, while a multifaceted and intricate construct involves optimal psychological functioning and optimal experience. The literature reveals two main perspectives/philosophies of well-being: the Hedonic approach which emphasizes and defines well-being with regards to the achievement of pleasure, enjoyment as well as the evasion/absence of pain. The Eudaimonic approach which is what relates to our discuss, accentuates self-realisation and meaning (that is, the degree to which an individual finds meaning), and defines well-being as the extent to which an individual functions fully and realizes his or her (human) potentials. It emphasizes positive human flourishing, with personal growth as one of its distinct components (Ryan and Deci, 2001). In fact, to Ryff and Singer, Eudaimonia is “the idea of striving towards excellence based on one’s unique potentials” (in Samman, 2007, pg. 9).

Given that Professional development is an increase from one level of knowledge, skill and experience or even qualification(s) and status to another, it can be considered as growth. Continuing professional development does not just aid in the satisfaction of the basic human need of competence, keep in mind that the satisfaction of a primary human need conduces psychological well-being and promotes mental health. Psychological well-being means a “challenge, making effort, personal development and striving to grow” (Waterman, 1993).

CPD is to the professional, personal growth and development, a strive towards excellence for the organisation as a whole but more importantly, for the professional as an individual, hence it is arguable that it adds to the psychological well-being of the professional.

Apart from the fact that CPD increases competence, professional experience, knowledge and skills of the professional, it takes the professional to a level where s/he gradually develops and builds up belief in his or her capabilities to be able to carry out behaviour or actions applicable and necessary to achieve specific types of performances in specific situations or contexts. This is called self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977; 1986). Self-efficacy relates to competence, as it also relates to self-esteem; all of which impacts on the mental health and psychological well-being of the professional. The belief in one’s capacities to execute behaviour applicable to a particular situation for instance in class, and a person’s judgement about their abilities in carrying out specific necessary performances in particular contexts has a huge impact on the ability of a teacher to cope with the stresses inherent in the typical world of a teacher. World Health Organisation (2005) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make contributions to his or her community”.

I put forth that CPD in addition to the ways it is perceived especially in the light of its many benefits can be seen as part of mental health promotion for early years education practitioners, particularly recalling the way mental health promotion has been defined by Sartorious the former WHO Director of Mental Health as “a means by which individuals, groups, or large populations can enhance their competence, self-esteem and sense of well-being” (Sartorious, 1998 in Mann et al., 2004, pg. 358).  Seeing CPD from this perspective, makes us approach it differently; with renewed interest and zest both as organisations and as professionals. As perspectives and dispositions guide actions, and determine how profitable a course of action would be, it is hoped that all the benefits of CPD especially regarding human well-being and mental health would be better tapped going forward.



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