Crowley S (ed) (2014) Challenging Professional Learning, London: Routledge

164 pages

ISBN:  978-0-415-81694-6

Sue Rowley, the editor presents, in the final chapter, what she feels are the key issues covered in this edited text:

  • Personalised learning
  • Leadership and responsible, earned autonomy
  • Resourcing CPD
  • Measure of impact and success
  • Learning cultures and expansive learning environments

In fact the book offers far more, and the selected title is very appropriate with both elements of the ambiguity being interrogated.  At first glimpse of the contributors there is an unsubstantiated concern that the focus on the post compulsory sector through the Institute for Learning would dominate.  This is far from the case.  In addition to the issues above there are comparisons and explanations of the CPD climate in other sectors (schools) and also in other professions (most notably law.  This helps the reader to begin to generalise despite the predominantly UK focus.  Issues associated with what is termed ‘input’ and ‘output’ models are critically presented, challenging the reader to reconsider how CPD should be planned and evaluated.  The traditional view of an input model, with participants logging hours aspect, often at externally organised CPD events, is shown to be ineffective.  The output model, focusing on current, bas- line performance levels and  a focus from the outset on intended outcomes is presented as a more pragmatic, but also theoretically, sound approach.

Senior members of the IfL, writng in this collection, do practise what they preach.  The early chapters do scrutinise their own practices, pointing out how the Institute was responsive to government guidelines and remits.  However the ever changing policy landscape meant that changes in direction were necessary, and also the monitoring and evaluation evidence supported new approaches.  This self-critical, reflective style mirrors much of the content of the book.  Chapters do examine processes of professional formation and CPD and do broaden out to concepts applicable in other professional areas.  The key debates includes, the nature of the new professional in the context of new managerial approaches, the contestable terms of CPD and professional learning, the place of professional bodies, the effect of marketization and the counter movements of communities of practice, the value of dialogue and reflection, the concept of organisational learning promoted actively through open, transparent and learning focussed internal policies.

Nowhere does this book profess to provide answers, but in unpacking the issues it does provide the reader with the right questions to ask.  There are though some underpinnings which enable effective CPD, and that is not to say they are not present for unsuccessful CPD.  CPD is presented as far too complex for there to be simple and straightforward ways of working.  However, ‘trust’ is key.  As professionals, there must be a trust of colleagues, the public must trust the profession, colleagues must trust each other, and there must be mutual trust between practitioners and leaders/managers.

Similarly, reflection is at the core of effective CPD.  For once, time and space is devoted to defining reflection, and how it is linked to dialogue and the externalisation of thoughts about one’s own practice.

For all those responsible for the organisation of CPD, which includes all practitioners ans professionals with a sense of responsibility for their own performance, this book is an excellent resource.  It identifies key concepts, questions them and provides stimulus for thought at both a theoretical and a practical level.

Professor Kit Field

University of Wolverhampton