In many industries, professional certification often goes hand-in-hand with licensure. In healthcare, for example, it can determine the scope of your professional practice and is often a requirement for continued employment. The stakes are high.
Unlike healthcare, where practice must be grounded in research and evidence, the learning industry tends to gravitate away from its roots in educational research and toward the latest trends that generate the most buzz. Gamification, anyone? Microlearning? Mobile learning? The rapid evolution of technology requires some degree of real-time experimentation, yet learning professionals still have a responsibility to ensure that new approaches are based on some foundation of evidence. As Ruth Colvin Clark states in the preface to Evidence-Based Training Methods, “Academic research professionals and workforce learning practitioners constitute two quite separate communities of practice.”
To help reduce the gaps between my own education, experience, and research, I set a personal goal at the beginning of 2017 to become an ATD Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP).
Here are the strategies that I used to study for the CPLP exams, with an emphasis of incorporating research into my practice.
Start With the Knowledge Exam Content OutlineThe Knowledge Exam Content Outline lists key theories, models, and research and is a great place to start your CPLP journey.
Based on the outline, I used my web browser to organize a folder of bookmarks to sites with information on each educational theory and model. Most researchers have their own professional website or a website through their university; these sites are great primary sources of information. Be sure to corroborate information from third-party sources such as Wikipedia or blog posts with primary sources.
Next, using the outline and my convenient list of links, I drafted a study presentation where I homed in on the attributes of each theory or model that I thought were most important. Don’t try to learn every nuance or detail. Identify the three or four features or differences that make a model unique. Anchor your knowledge in concise bullet points that promote recall in greater detail. Be sure to keep a copy of your study presentation on your tablet or phone, and take advantage of downtime throughout your day. Run the presentation as a screen saver. A few minutes here and there really add up and aid in retention.
Finally, align your own study tools with the information in the CPLP Learning System.
Invest in the CPLP Learning SystemInitially, I debated on whether to purchase the CPLP Learning System. Equipped with my list of links and robust presentation study guide, I was skeptical that the additional expense would add significant value. Given the personal investment I was making in terms of time and the cost of certification, I decided that the investment made sense.
I found the CPLP Learning System to be a valuable resource, not only in preparation for the Knowledge and Skills Application exams, but also as an ongoing reference to guide my practice.
As I read and worked through the practice questions, the CPLP Learning System validated and supplemented the information I had organized on my own. I continued to refine my study presentation based on my results on the practice CPLP Knowledge Exam, or pCPLP. Don’t try to read every chapter in the Learning System. I chose to focus on the chapters that corresponded to my greatest gaps in knowledge according to the pCPLP, and those that aligned with my interests and work experience.
The robust lists of references at the end of each chapter served as an important reminder of how research really can and should inform our day-to-day work. The reference lists are a great place to start as you continue growing as a professional and look for ways to integrate research.
Apply the CPLP Framework for Continued Professional GrowthThe process for achieving certification has taught me that professional development is not something that ends with a degree or certification. Academic research is ongoing, and technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. As educators and practitioners, we have a professional responsibility to make informed decisions about the solutions we provide organizations, clients, and ultimately learners. CPLP certification, including the Knowledge Exam Content Outline, the CPLP Learning System, and the tools and resources you create along the way, provides a framework for continued discovery and growth.
Learn more about the CPLP Certification.