Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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CPD in lockdown

Author:  Jess Palfreyman
Last Updated:  06/01/2021

How to plan and achieve your personal development objectives in the time of Covid

Jess Palfreyman, Membership and Systems Officer

CPD Records

Covid has had an enormous effect on our lives, from how we work to how we spend our free time, and certainly how we study and develop our skills.

It won’t have escaped your notice that this year our face-to-face courses and events practically disappeared, along with many events and workshops planned by other training providers across the world. Happily, we are now running some small-group training courses from our HQ, but with everything in flux, and money becoming tighter for both businesses and individuals, we acknowledge it’s harder than ever to plan your personal development for the next year.

As an Association we are taking a flexible approach to CPD for 2020 and 2021, but that doesn’t mean we expect you to take a break from it over the next year (before you all start celebrating!).

There are many opportunities for learning available – many are low cost, available on demand, or can be carried out with your colleagues. Here are a few things to consider when planning your Personal Development Objectives in 2020/2021.

Have a CPD log/recording sheet, or use an online system (like ours pictured). It doesn’t matter where you record your CPD only that you have it in an accessible format in case you do need to produce it for an employer or professional body. We would, however, strongly recommend that you use your CPD record to set out your development objectives as well as your accomplishments – this makes it much more valuable and prevents CPD becoming a box-ticking exercise.

Have a plan. It might sound mad to plan anything at the moment, but it is critical to have an objective, otherwise you can never meet it. We suggest setting a goal that is outcome focussed such as: ‘Feel confident writing a veteran tree management plan.’ Then you can start looking at how you can get to this end point without restricting your methods.

Make your objectives valuable or worthwhile to you in your role. Learning for learning’s sake is wonderful if you have the time, but if you don’t, it’s important to prioritise development that will help you progress.

Set some target dates. Open-ended objectives tend to get pushed further and further down the road. Set a date and work towards it: it will give you a sense of purpose and help you plan your time.

Be flexible in your approach. It might be ideal if someone was simply running a one-day face-to-face workshop on the exact subject you are interested in, but in reality that’s unlikely at the moment. Reading, webinars, video content and podcasts are all acceptable methods of personal development.

Make the most of free webinars. Live webinars are easy to record from a CPD perspective as the hosts know who has signed in and often send certificates etc. That said, recordings of webinars are just as valuable as a learning resource, and as a member you have access to over 50 hours of Arb Association webinar content to date.

Record reading, viewing and listening as you do it. It is a moment’s effort but will save you a headache later on. Be realistic and allocate what you’ve done against the objectives you’ve set yourself; this makes it easier to account for your time.

Use your colleagues. It’s amazing what you can learn from your colleagues and acquaintances in the industry. If you are interested in learning about a particular topic and happen to know of an accessible subject matter expert, get in touch and ask for their help. Most people are keen to share their knowledge, and time spent learning from your peers can be recorded as CPD. This knowledge sharing doesn’t need to be face to face; you can use the phone, email, letters or video calls to share knowledge, ask questions and explore new ideas and subjects. Subject matter experts may even be able to recommend other sources of learning, from books, articles or webinars to longer courses of study.

Mentoring. If peer-to-peer learning works well for you, you may want to formalise the set-up by establishing a more formal mentor/mentee relationship. You may even be in a position to act as a mentor to someone else, and you’ll be pleased to learn mentoring also counts as CPD – it’s amazing how much you can learn or re-learn from teaching someone else.

eLearning. Distinct from webinars, eLearning is structured learning that is carried out online, normally through a specialist online learning platform. It can include videos, reading and other visual content such as illustrations, diagrams and photos. It is often assessed via quizzes and tests, and you will normally receive a certificate for completing these courses. Courses can take anything from a few hours to several months to complete, depending on the subject and type of course, but the best bit is that it is entirely flexible and quantifiable and you can fit your studies around your work and homelife.

Face-to-face courses and events. We don’t know what the future holds but it is certain that there will be some face-to-face courses, workshops and conferences over the next year or so. If you are comfortable with the idea and able to attend these events, then it is a great opportunity to learn from experts and your peers. Many activities are now fully refundable or offer flexibility for rebooking, so often there is little to lose by booking a spot.

Be realistic about the hours you record. As much as we all love it, it is impossible to spend 15 learning hours reading a single issue of the ARB Magazine (however many pages it stretches to). Be honest about what you learn and from where. If you spend an hour in a really interesting briefing at work, log it. Don’t fall back on recording a standard number of hours every quarter for reading journals, magazines or watching webinars. Be specific and be realistic.

I hope that this gives you some inspiration for your CPD moving forwards. Just make sure you plan and record as you go, and there should be no barrier to continuing your personal development and achieving your goals. Remember, it only counts towards your CPD target if you record it!

Access your CPD records

This article was taken form Issue 191 Winter 2020 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.