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Renegotiating professional identity following a continuing professional education experience
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posted on 16.02.2017by Reynolds, Kelly
Continuing Professional Education (CPE) programs are more successful at meeting learning outcomes when the content is relevant and applicable to workplace situations. This has led to the development of more interactive, problem-based training programs with an emphasis on using authentic tools and scenarios from everyday situations to facilitate learning. Despite these efforts to make CPE more relevant for learners, the implementation of newly acquired knowledge and skills into workplaces is not easily identified. This project examined how learning through CPE influenced workplace practices to support recommendations made to course organisers for the improvement of CPE outcomes beyond identified learning objectives. This case study was carried out to understand how health professionals change their work practices based on the influence of CPE. The case selected for this research project was the Bobath Foundation Course for the Treatment of Cerebral Palsy, delivered through the Australian Bobath Neuro-Developmental Association (ABNDTA). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with course graduates to discuss their learning experiences during the course and the process of returning to work. The interview transcripts form the basis for analysis and interpretation in the context of this study. CPE aims to change how a person implements their practice within their professional domain. To measure the effectiveness of CPE change must be identified and maintained as a person transitions from the learning environment to the workplace. Incorporation of adult education principles into CPE course design supports the use of experiential learning activities, group interaction and context-specific information. It is based upon the understanding that knowledge is created and used through a process of learning that involves interpretation, assimilation and negotiation of meanings that occur during and after attendance at CPE. It presents a social theory of learning where the interactions of multiple relationships influence knowledge use and actions within the workplace. The concept of identity has been used to understand the ongoing, relational process of adult learning. Identity formation is a continuous process that is influenced by all past, present and future endeavours and interactions. In this project I found that professional identity is disrupted by CPE programs and subsequent transition back to the workplace required learners to negotiate and establish a new professional identity. Health professionals' engagement, as well as their thoughts, feelings and recollections about returning to work provided insights into how they were beginning to renegotiate their identity. These findings showed that the evolution of changing practice at work required the learner to actively reconcile points of tension with their beliefs about practice; to negotiate with others at work including clients and colleagues; and engage with broader organisational policies and procedures. CPE providers need to develop an integrated partnership between the learner, their workplace and the course. This includes supporting the learner to feel competent in their skills and knowledge to continue the learning process after completing the training. The learner must feel empowered to engage the support of co-workers and supervisors in their efforts to facilitate change. This study provides an in-depth look at the learning experiences of health professional attending the Bobath course and its relationship to subsequent practice. It focuses on the concept of professional identity as a way to understand the multiple and complex variables that influence human behaviour and interaction at work. Bobath course organisers need to pay attention to the knowledge-practice relationship in order to deliver a CPE program that effectively meets the needs of health professionals, with observable and ongoing changes to professional practice and service provision.