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How to learn effectively

What does continuing professional development (CPD) mean to you? We speak to three experts about how to approach CPD, then embed robust and positive learning practices that fit into and support your working life.

How to learn effectively
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how to learn effectively
  • Staff Reporter
  • July 18, 2019
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Go beyond CPD’s ‘basics’

The question I was asking myself was ‘what will learning look like in the future?’

This was prompted by IFAC, the global accountancy body, requiring more than a decade ago that we all ‘do CPD’ and by them also asking accountancy bodies to promote lifelong learning. One doctorate and a lot of research later, I had an answer: a new framework that encompasses both CPD and lifelong learning.

My framework is based on three dimensions of learning. At the top are knowledge and skills, while across the bottom are the intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions, the softer elements of learning.

The triangle can be divided into nine triangles across three layers. The top triangle includes formal learning, such as courses and technical updates. If you do that much learning, you’re an ‘informed professional’. The middle layer enables you to put your knowledge and skills into practice.

These three elements are: learning from others; learning at work; and learning through reflection. If your learning covers the top two layers, I would call you a ‘competent professional’ – you’ve fulfilled all the standard requirements of CPD.

However, the five elements in the bottom layer of my framework can make you a ‘complete professional’, someone who is best placed to have the future they want. So, what is in this magic third layer? First, you need self-belief and a positive attitude, and then you need to use that mindset to experiment, explore and engage with any opportunities you identify. 

So my advice about lifelong learning is to be proactive and seek to shape your future. None of us can know with certainty what careers will look like going forward. But to have the best chance of success, you need more than the minimum CPD requirements.

Hilary Lindsay is an honorary associate at The Open University and past president of the ICAEW. You can read more about her research at

Be inspired to learn

Born into a working-class family and motivated to succeed from an early age, I carved out a successful path for myself. After working on building sites to earn money and survive, I aimed high and am now the head of a successful company, a visiting professor at Surrey University and have been awarded the vice-chancellor’s Outstanding Contribution to Surrey 2019 Award.

My company is Qube Learning, working with businesses to provide innovative training programmes.

I’ve always used the same principles, and these have shaped my professional and personal life. Self-belief is important – if you don’t see your worth, then who will? I quickly realised that I would define my future, and I wanted it to read like an exciting book.

I’m a firm believer in continued learning. Expanding your skillset through higher education or training is a valuable way to keep growing. It’s a chance to show the world what you are capable of.

Fear prevents many individuals from trying something new. However, it can be used effectively, and has helped propel me into exciting situations that I had never dreamt possible as a kid.

I had to be brave and take risks, and this has welcomed in exciting opportunities. Working with talented people from all walks of life has allowed me to see and learn things from some of the most interesting people.

My next venture with the university is The SurreyIDEA degree, which is aimed at what I call the disruptors – those who show strong entrepreneurial potential but don’t have the traditional academic background. I want to support these young people, and give them the chance to change the world.

Gavin Whichello is owner and founder of Qube Learning

Attributes… do you and your team need to fill in some gaps?

For me, CPD is about not just technical updates but also self-awareness – what do you want and need to improve on? Think of a computer game character that has certain strengths and weaknesses.

Some of the CPD I’ve undertaken is industry-focused – technical skills required to undertake the role. Then there are communication and softer skills. I’ve undertaken training on presentation and writing – even on neuro-linguistic programming.

I also think about the customer: what do they need from you; what could you learn to benefit them? As for team members, there’s something I consider crucial: they need to own their own learning process. Have you ever been handed a list of courses and told you have to do them? It’s a rigmarole.

But when I became engaged in my own learning and choosing my own courses, it became more relevant.

As a leader, you may see areas that need improving in someone, but you need to have the right communication and structure so they’re aware of these areas. They can then be given the opportunity to control their own improvement programme – if they can’t see them, there are more underlying issues.

Carl Reader is a director at d&t chartered accountants and a non-executive director of the British Franchise Association.

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