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It is what you know

George Tuckwell

…but does it matter who knows you know it? George Tuckwell thinks it does, if only to avoid turning into a sessile urochordate…

Geoscientist 20.4 April 2010

Knowing that a tomato is a fruit is knowledge. Wisdom on the other hand is not putting it into a fruit salad. Swap the term ‘competence’ for wisdom, and you are not far away from the essence of what distinguishes a Chartered Fellow from a fresh graduate with a head full of newly acquired facts.

To be passed as a Chartered Fellow (CGeol) you have to demonstrate competence in a number of core areas. These include your ability to operate professionally. OK, so you know the ‘what’, but do you know ‘how’ and understand the ‘why’? A Chartered Fellow has demonstrated to other CGeols through the scrutineering process (more scrutineers still needed, please!) that they can implement their knowledge as a professional, at a high level.

So what role knowledge and - dare I mention it – Continuing Professional Development (CDP)? Past articles on this topic have generated passionate discussion. The Chartership Panel has taken soundings from experienced fellows from different sectors of the Society (and with, as it turned out disparate views). However, through all the discussions not one person has ever suggested that a geologist progressing through their career does not need to learn anything new; quite the opposite, in fact.

Fellows may know of the humble sea squirt, which spends its formative days searching for food, growing and developing, until it matures and attaches itself to a piece of coral or rock. Thereafter, needing only to eat and reproduce, it famously eats its own brain. Like a sea squirt, an enthusiastic new geoscientist swims vigorously, making progress through the seas of professional practice, to reach the stage where they have the competence to attach to the rock of Chartered status. But once they achieve this, do they morph into a brainless filter feeder for the rest of their careers? Of course not.

Professionals can, should, and do continually learn new things. The differences emerge when a particular approach to CPD does not match the CPD requirements of an individual. One size does not fit all. If we strip away the details, the essence emerges as this:

“A professional should undertake sufficient CPD activity to maintain competence. As a minimum they should stay up to date with the relevant technical knowledge, best practice and legislation in their area of expertise.”

The way CPD is recorded should be flexible enough to cope with the wide variety of useful CPD activities from ‘looking it up’ to doing an exam in it, but robust enough to capture the underlying premise – maintenance and development of competence.

The Society has an online recording system, effortlessly used by some and rather disliked by others. It is clear that while an excellent system, it does not suit everyone. Because of this, the Society has always accepted CPD records in other formats, such as perhaps an employer’s annual appraisal scheme. Our online system is there for the majority; but all Fellows can choose whatever recording system suits them best.

With the focus on flexibility and clarity of outcome, CPD quietly assumes its place as the foundation of professional practice. Not box-ticking for the sake of it, not a burden; just something we all do, and which it is very useful to demonstrate has been done.