The effectiveness of continuing professional development

Grant, J. and Stanton, F. (2001). The effectiveness of continuing professional development. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 77(910) pp. 551–552.



This publication saw life initially as a report on continuing professional development (CPD) to the Chief Medical Officer. It gives the background to the nature of CPD, its prevalence, types, aims, the educational approaches, and the factors that influence its provision and the participation in CPD programmes. The next section deals with the methodological issues. These include the design of programmes and the assessment of outcomes. The main part of the report is devoted to a review of the literature up to 1997.

There is recognition of the importance, reflected in its prevalence, of self directed learning and of how individuals will largely initiate, control, and evaluate their own continuous learning. This is a difficulty for professional bodies who award credits for more formal learning experiences. The assessment of outcomes is very difficult and falls far short of being able to measure health care benefits, which is what government wants for its financial investment in CPD. There is also no best learning method. The authors conclude that the effectiveness of CPD is a function of the process and the context in which it occurs. Horses for courses!

The authors do well to avoid the all too frequent opacity of language that makes educational papers so difficult for the general reader. I recommend this booklet as a useful and authoritative review of CPD for those involved in its provision.

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