The importance of learning

We live and work in a changing world. New laws are introduced that lead to the introduction of new policies. New ideas and approaches emerge. New problems arise and new solutions are sought. The world of work is therefore a constantly moving and evolving one. What this means, then, is that, if we are not constantly learning as we go about our day-to-day business, then each day we are getting further and further out of touch with the demands of the modern working world. It can be dangerous to get into a rut whereby we continue to carry out our duties in much the same way as we have done in the past. Expectations change over time and, if we do not adapt to the new circumstances, then we will be steadily more out of tune with what is required of us. It is therefore important that we enter into a process of what is known as ‘continuous professional development’ (or CPD for short). CPD does not simply mean constantly going on training courses; it is much broader than this. It involves being clear about what is required of us in our job to ensure high-quality practice. It also involves making sure that we have, as far as possible, the knowledge and skills required to carry out our duties appropriately and filling any gaps in our knowledge base and skills repertoire as these become identified. In addition to the knowledge and skills, there is also the question of values. We need to make sure that our work is consistent with the value base on which it is premised. For example, people working in a commercial setting will need to be in tune with the value of customer care and I would argue that anyone working with people should be in tune with the values of respect and dignity. CPD is a useful antidote to becoming stuck in a rut of uncritical routines. It is based on what is often referred to as ‘reflective practice’. This refers to forms of practice which draw actively on the knowledge and skills base on which our work is premised, taking the opportunities to link theory and practice and thus maximising the number of opportunities for learning from experience. Indeed, reflective practice is based on the idea that experience is not the best teacher – it is what we do with experience that forms the best basis for learning. Learning is not just important to ensure that we keep up-to-date with developments in our particular field. It is also an important source of motivation, stimulation and job satisfaction. For example, somebody who works in a particular place for three years and during that time continues to learn, grow and develop, is likely to experience far greater job satisfaction than someone who stays in the same post for three years, simply repeating the basic tasks in the same way without any growth or development over that time. Learning should therefore be seen as something positive and worthwhile in its own right, not just something that we have to do to meet other people’s expectations of us. Learning is therefore important because it helps us to keep in tune with trends and developments in our own field. It provides stimulation and job satisfaction and also helps to keep us on our toes to make sure that we do not become blasé and thus more likely to make mistakes. Learning should therefore not be seen as an additional burden on top of what is already perhaps a heavy workload, but rather something to be welcomed as a means of dealing as effectively as possible with that heavy workload.

Dr Neil Thompson                        

Neil’s website and blog are at

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