Self-directed CPD: a registrant's perspective

Self-directed CPD is an accessible way of learning and a simple way of gaining CPD points. In a nutshell, it is any learning you carry out, relevant to your professional practice or development, which is not delivered by a GOC-approved CPD provider.

We caught up with three registrants to talk about self-directed CPD: Rebekah Stevens - optometrist, academic and Lead Assessor at the College of Optometrists; Wee Heong Chu – hospital optometrist; and Graeme Stevenson – contact lens optician. We asked them about the self-directed CPD they have completed and how they’ve benefitted from self-directed learning. 

What self-directed CPD have you carried out? 

All three of them have together carried out a range of self-directed CPD – from workplace training and academic learning to presenting at meetings and peer reviewing, and more.    

Rebekah highlights the importance of logging any type of course that her employer is running which will have an impact on her practice, such as GDPR or data protection training. 

Wee is currently enrolled on a master's degree which allows her “lots of opportunities” to log self-directed CPD. She also organises peer reviews with local optometrists to discuss cases from clinical practice, hosts multidisciplinary team meetings, and has presented results of audits.  

Self-directed CPD can be as straightforward as reading and learning from an article. Graeme recently read a “thought provoking” article on contact lens aftercare. “It’s allowed me to question what I do and what we’ll do in the future… I discussed it with some peers, and I’ve since claimed that as self-directed CPD”. 

What are the benefits of self-directed CPD? 

Rebekah says it’s “great” that she can count learning activities she’s completing as part of her role anyway as CPD, even though they’re not provider-led. “It's a really good way to show the depth and the breadth of your development as a professional and capture all the things that you do in that three-year cycle”.  

Wee states it’s given her the opportunity to recognise her own learning needs and learning style. She also said it’s allowed her to diversify her learning. “For example, mandatory training at work, such as basic life support. These may not be immediately apparent, but they do count as CPD.” 

Graeme highlights the flexibility of self-directed learning - “you can do it anytime and you're in complete control.” He also finds the reflective statement, which registrants must complete after a self-directed activity, a benefit. “I tend to find that when you reflect on these things it just enforces the learning in your mind. So when you put that down on paper or electronically, it just makes you think better about what you have learned.” 

What do you consider when putting together your reflective statement? 

Registrants should outline how the activity was relevant to their professional needs and what they learnt from it in the reflective statement. “It’s like critical thinking – what effect will it have on my own practice?” Wee says.  

Rebekah says the statement “solidifies what you learnt.” She suggests not completing it immediately as she finds she gets “deeper reflections that develop over time.”  

Emotions are something she includes. “Some experiences are frustrating, maybe satisfying or even heart-rending. I try to capture these in my statement because not all learning is easy learning.” 

Finally, she says she keeps it concise. “I don't make it an essay. I try to let the words kind of flow freely in a way that's a lot looser than how I would normally write.” 

Wee suggests registrants could include something about the delivery of the event, such as the speaker and the presentation: “Are they engaging or is it just somebody who talks at you? These are quite helpful things to reflect on.” 

What would you say to registrants who have not carried out self-directed CPD? 

Rebekah, Wee and Graeme acknowledged that registrants are likely to be completing self-directed CPD, they just may not realise it. “You're often already completing CPD in your various roles… it might not be provider-led CPD, but it's probably really vital in your professional career. Self-directed CPD is a way to record it, so it's not ‘wasted’” says Rebekah. Graeme states “it's a great way of formally recognising a lot of the learning that we already undertake.” 

“It’s often built into your daily routine, we just don’t realise it” adds Wee, before highlighting a number of activities registrants could already be doing that count as self-directed CPD. “If you're doing any further qualifications, which a lot of optometrists are, don't forget to log those. If you're reading journals and publications, they count as well.” 

“There’s lots of opportunities.”  

All self-directed CPD needs to be evidenced, and Wee reminds registrants of the importance of this. “I would strongly encourage peers to think ahead about what evidence they would use to support the CPD.” Examples of evidence include notes or email communication to confirm attendance on a course.  

She ends by saying that she is glad it has been introduced.  

“I wasn't aware of how much I was learning or teaching until I started logging my own activities.  

I'm delighted that the GOC has introduced self-directed CPD. It is very important that these diverse range of activities are recognised.”  

See more in the full video, Self-directed CPD: a registrant’s perspective.