CPD – information for members

The ISTC has introduced a CPD Framework to provide some guidance for its members on recording the continuing professional development (CPD) that we undertake as professional technical communicators.

This framework is formalising an important part of our ISTC Code of Professional Practice, which states that every ISTC member must maintain and update their knowledge and skills.

We want to recognise all learning, whatever form it takes, and have provided some sample CPD records for guidance.

We encourage all of our members to maintain a CPD record. For all except Fellows, this is a voluntary activity. Fellows must maintain a CPD record to retain their status as Fellows. (This does not apply to Honorary Fellows or if you have retired.)

Our intention is not to add to anyone’s burden unduly, but we need to be able to validate the CPD that we do – both for ourselves and for the ISTC.

What do you get out of it?

Being a Fellow of the ISTC now has some additional significance. You can now say “I am a Fellow of the ISTC, which means I have to maintain my professional competence and keep my skills up-to-date – and I can provide evidence that I have done so.”

For all ISTC members, a CPD record is a valuable resource – a summary of the learning you have done in a format that can be used when asked if you have experience in a particular area. It can add weight to an entry on a CV that mentions you worked in a particular industry or have used a particular tool or technique. The information in your CPD record can also be useful during performance reviews or appraisals, helping to guide the discussion towards your professional development.

What counts as valid CPD?

Some of us prefer the more formal discipline of academic study, or training courses in a particular area. Others prefer to research, experiment and investigate – either alone or with others.

We are all learning all the time, whether we realise it or not. From the reflection on the project that didn’t go quite as planned to the investigation of a new tool or technique, much of our learning is informal, gained ‘on the job’. That doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

We recognise any activity that results in you learning something relevant to your role as valid CPD.

How can you demonstrate that you have learnt something?

By writing a short piece of reflective writing that explains what you learnt, how you learnt it and – if you can – how you intend to use what you’ve learnt.

What you learn doesn’t have to be completely new to you – you may have refreshed or updated your knowledge, or you may start looking at something from a slightly different perspective. That is learning.

How can you demonstrate that your learning is relevant?

Sometimes relevance can be inferred from the nature of the learning activity. Other activities need the links between the learning and the practice to be made explicit.

For example, you may write product training materials for accounting software and you are struggling because you do not understand the rules around VAT calculation. You attend a workshop on VAT to help you.

This counts as valid CPD as long as your piece of reflective writing explains how you have used this learning in your work… and we are looking for how you have used it as a Technical Communicator – the thoughts that go through your mind on how you can better explain this others as you learn about it yourself.

How much CPD should you do?

An average of 30-points per year in any 3-year period, with a minimum of 10 points per year. A point is roughly equivalent to an hour of CPD – but it is not an exact correlation as some learning involves minimal ‘activity’ (reading, researching, studying) but a lot of thinking.

We have provided a CPD Framework, which lists a number of activities with suggested points. These are for guidance, and you may feel that you want to claim more than those specified for some activities. That is fine – you can use your piece of reflective writing to justify your claim.

What evidence do you need?

You need some evidence of CPD activity:

  • If you attend events that issue certificates of attendance, keep them.
  • If you have paid for training, keep the invoice or receipt.
  • If you have created something, add it (or an extract) to your portfolio.

You should also make sure your piece of reflective writing describes what you learnt, how you learnt it and what you intend to do next.

If you have provided other evidence, your piece of reflective writing only needs to be short.

If your piece of reflective writing is the only evidence of learning activity, it should more completely show what you have learnt and possibly how you intend to apply it.

What do you mean by ‘reflective writing’?

Reflective writing is a very personal style of writing. Some see it almost like writing in a diary: a learning journal.

To help, we have compiled sample CPD claims from four very different personas over a 2-year period and created short examples of reflective writing for two learning activities for each of them.

An alternative option is to use a blog to record the reflective element, with tags to identify which bits of the record relate to the ISTC or to which event (see http://ajplearningjournal.blogspot.co.uk/ for a example, which is a real CPD reflective record so will change as time progresses). A spreadsheet could be used to track the points element.