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Problematising ourselves: continuing professional development in higher education

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The problem of continuing professional development (sometimes capitalised as CPD) of professionals in higher education is that it operates around a series of unresolved tensions: between higher education institutions as major providers for other professionals and as a relatively new provider in terms of its own professional development; between the prestige associated with continuing professional development in the service of research and that accorded to learning and teaching. These problems are compounded by a tendency to regard professional or staff development as comprising only those sorts of activities that are formally recognised. Rather than attempting to resolve these two tensions, the paper argues that problematising our conceptions of continuing professional development can open up space for debate. The paper re-visits some of the recent history of CPD in order to pinpoint some of the contradictions. This allows new questions to emerge: for example about whether the multiple practices of continuing professional development constitute "domesticating" (Land, 2001) or more critical tendencies within the newly emerging regimes in higher education. The arguments have implications for practising educational developers in meeting the challenges of a broader mandate for CPD, and in recognising the importance of the non-formal in development practice. The paper takes its examples mostly from an English context, but many of the contradictions highlighted are relevant to other state-dependent higher education systems.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Sheffield Hallam University UK

Publication date: 2003-05-01

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