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Everything Is Linked: My Guide to Passing the CPLP

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
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The Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) certification is a long, but not insurmountable, journey. Whether you’re studying for the Knowledge Exam or compiling your Work Product, the key is to remember that all the information is linked. It’s the common thread throughout the steps outlined below. Making connections will help you absorb the content for the Knowledge Exam and align your Work Product with the submission guidelines. Focus on that and you’ll make it through—it worked for me!

Review, Connect, Repeat

I took about 10 months to prepare for the CPLP Knowledge Exam. Allow yourself time to digest the information. It’s not about simply memorizing the content; it’s about context and making connections with the material. You know you are “in the zone” when you are able to connect knowledge areas and apply them to your work. A study group I found through my local ATD chapter also helped me understand the content and strengthen the connections I was making.

I went through the materials twice. I read them and took notes initially, and on the second pass I made study cards. Then I focused purely on gaps for two months. The CPLP Candidate group conversations are also a valuable resource if you need more guidance on studying for the exam.

Memorize the Work Product Guidelines

I read the key actions and competencies spreadsheet, performance rubric, and Work Product submission guidelines several times. I also kept them with me as I began planning for my training session, which would be the basis for my Work Product. It helped me discover opportunities to provide evidence and link it to the key actions in my area of expertise.

I began this process in October for a February submission date. As I began compiling my evidence, I felt great . . . and then I doubted myself. Then I felt great again . . . and then doubted myself once more—it was a cycle. Finally, I realized what was happening. Whenever I connected evidence to a key action or obtained evidence for a key action, I’d discover that this one piece would also link to other strategies, key actions, and evidence for my project, thus strengthening my Work Product.

Get Outside Help

I attended a CPLP Work Product preparation program. The webinars and cohort discussions helped me stay focused, validated my progress, and provided some empathy during anxious moments. This is a long-haul project; it’s good to know that you are not alone and that others are experiencing the same challenges. I also joined Owl’s Ledge one-time webinars early on, attending them six months and a year prior to starting the Work Product. They helped me gain a big-picture perspective, and I was better prepared to begin the Work Product prep.

Align Your Work Product Early and Often

I began a lot of the prep work early, even before attending Owl’s Ledge webinars. I did this mainly because I had to: My position was being affected by a large layoff two months before the submission date. Consequently I had to locate, produce, and save all my evidence and record the training event early.

However, my early start helped me strategically align my project from the beginning. While preparing and delivering my training session, I aligned it with my organization’s goals. Similarly, I aligned my Work Product with the key actions, evidence, and submission guidelines.

Pick the Right Project and Be Critical

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I chose a training session that had the following characteristics: 

  • deep content 
  • evidence that aligned with the organization goals 
  • sufficient length (three hours) 
  • enough participants 
  • met the guidelines listed in the CPLP Certification Handbook.

Look critically at your project—every project has holes. Reinforce the already strong pieces to get more point leverage, and shore up those areas where your evidence might be lacking.

Create Systems

I had to create systems for my project, which kept me focused and organized:

  • Spreadsheet. I put the key actions of my Work Product into a spreadsheet and added in the layers of the rubric. When I worked with the rubric, I focused on the two higher-score categories and asked myself, “Do I do this? Do I have this evidence? Do I do this already, and I just need to be more intentional?” I also glanced at the “what not to do” items, which were good reminders.

    I used the spreadsheet as an evidence inventory tracker. I added one column to list my evidence and one column to list my action plan to get the evidence. I was able to focus on what I needed, instead of looking at the whole list and feeling overwhelmed. I revisited the list every week, and I was able to systematically validate what I had.

  • Chart Paper. The project management aspect of the Work Product is huge. You have to plan the actual training session, which includes filming, pre-training planning, post-training planning, assessment, and communication. I posted chart paper in my office area at home—one for each of the phases of the training session. Consider the filming phase to be its own project, because it requires planning, timing, and collaboration. As I reviewed the key actions, rubric, or handbook and came across information, I would add sticky notes to the charts so I would remember and address that information in my training session. There is a lot of linked information to manage.

  • Files. I had a file box for my paper files and a memory stick so I could be mobile and only print what I needed. I carried the memory stick around with me like a precious gem. Print things one-sided from the beginning. It makes the submission process a lot easier later, because evidence has to be submitted one-sided.

Your Narratives Have a Word Limit

My biggest challenge was cutting down the word count on my narratives—even the page numbers count toward the total word limit! It forced me to pick the most strategic pieces of evidence and really think about what was important. The evidence is what pulls everything together, so I had to be precise with my words.

Link, Link, Link

Look at your training session. Does it support your organization’s goals and strategic initiatives? Do you have evidence to link the training session with the key actions and Work Product guidelines? You, the candidate, need to demonstrate the link. You may have a super awesome project in mind for the Work Product, but it’s not about how awesome it is. You need to be able to articulate your actions and demonstrate the links.

I benefitted from starting early and aligning my project, building systems, and seeking outside support to gain clarity when I was overwhelmed. But most of all, I benefitted from making connections. This material doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s your job to apply it to the questions on the Knowledge Exam and link it to the Work Product guidelines. Working with intention is the best way to complete your CPLP journey.

Look here for information on CPLP preparation and ATD's CPLP Preparation program.

About the Author
Michele Schwab is a staff development specialist at the County of Orange, Human Resources Services, Learning and Organizational Development. Previously, she worked at THINK Together, an afterschool care provider, for more than six years. Michele also spent 12 years in various roles with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, including employee relations and training and development.
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