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CPD: Professional Judgement and Critical Thinking

23rd July 2013

Continuing education, learning and training is vital to both personal and workforce development and should be a collaborative venture between practitioners, employers and providers. However, there is a shift from looking at CPD as something that is done to staff towards seeing it as a more proactive process dependent on individual commitment, responsibility and engagement.

Recent social work CPD initiatives (e.g. the Professional Capabilities Framework for social work) encourage practitioners to become engaged in identifying their professional learning needs and to commit the time needed to meet them in a systematic way.

There is a need to understand professional development, the level and style of learning required in the workplace, and ensure CPD activities meet individual, organisational and professional requirements. On-going professional learning should be engaged with at an appropriate level (i.e. one associated with complex advanced thinking and practices) and approached holistically so that the resulting development of professional reasoning and judgement can be appropriately recognised and evaluated. The systematic planning, recording, assessing, evaluating, and/or accreditation of CPD is now an important consideration in order to determine the level of learning that has occurred and the impact it has had on the individual, their professional practice and the service.

How can this book help with practice?

Social work as a profession has always demanded critical abilities and qualities from its practitioners because decisions have to be make ‘on the spot’ and under pressure. With practice situations being so complex, the consequences of any judgements, decisions and action are extremely important. The practitioner is working with uncertainty, risk, diversity and difference in a way that recognises oppression, and works to empower and promote the needs and rights of users and carers. This requirement goes beyond ‘competent practice’ and demands ‘critical practice’ and the development of ‘critical practice’ i.e. a person who not only reflects critically on knowledge but also develops their powers of critical self-reflection and critical  action.

No matter what we do we cannot escape our thinking but it can often be left unquestioned in our busy lives. We suggest that developing critical thinking can ensure that we use the best thinking we are capable of in any set of circumstances, and continually refine our professional judgement and expertise.

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  • NCPP Bournemouth University
    Dr Lynne Rutter
    Senior Lecturer

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