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BEST PRACTICE: On course for professional development

The usual distinction made between courses is whether they are structured programmes, studied over a lengthy period of time and leading to a recognised qualification, or short targeted courses focusing on a particular skill. There is also a third much more informal learning option available through workshops, conferences, seminars and networking. Each of the three offers different learning experiences and there are arguments in favour of them all.

Before deciding on a training course, however, the individual needs to decide what gaps the learning is intended to fill. They might lack theoretical knowledge and generic understanding of their profession; they might lack certain skills to enable them to do their job well; they might need to learn ways of modifying behaviour to get the best out of colleagues and contacts.

Chris Sharp, head of Reed Training, says: “We stress that people need to explore their weak spots and identify the need. Then they should look at what is taught in the different courses and the way it's taught before matching content to the gaps in their knowledge.”