Reflection on #physiotalk: professional development portfolios from @AlsNickson

On Monday 31st March we held an extra #physiotalk on professional development portfolios as the first of a series of chats around professional development, job applications, interviews and new jobs (see here for the chat info).


In the spirit of reflection, learning and demonstrating impact we put a call out for reflective summaries on the chat – and are really pleased to post this reflection from Alison Nickson:

My reflection on #physiotalk: professional development portfolios

This was my first #physiotalk and my first tweetchat! I have been a consumer on twitter for a while but I have only recently started actively tweeting and connecting. This part of my own mini ‘action research’ project to explore the values and risks of social media.

There’s something about the collective endeavour in the tweetchat that I found uplifting. The ideas come think and fast, the hour flies by, but the reflection takes me a lot longer! As part of my personal development plan, my goals include taking more time to reflect on my experiences and learning. Volunteering to write this piece is also helping me towards another goal, which is to be more proactive.


A key feature of CPD is to demonstrate the application and impact of any learning or change process. Evolving theories of CPD, encourage us to strive for transformational CPD and in other motivational literature, we are encouraged to strive to be inspirational leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators. This overwhelms me at times and I feel that my portfolio is inadequate if not populated with abundant  ‘eureka’ moments, accolades, award winning projects and innovative schemes.

The physiotalk chat on twitter reminded me that I don’t need to be overwhelmed. If I focus on capturing my practice on a regular basis, those small insights, those comments from a colleague or patient, those thoughts during a conference, postcard reminders, high points and low points. These pave the way for progress and change. It wouldn’t be realistic to expect that every experience we reflect upon, everything we read, observe and learn will lead to a transformation in practice. But if we don’t record what we notice, observe and read and experience, our brains can struggle to aggregate the memories that would help us to notice patterns, identify gaps and give reliable assessments of our performance. It’s a cumulative process and as another tweeter mentioned, great impact can be gained and transferred through effective role modelling of this cumulative sustained action.

A reminder too, that we don’t always immediately know the impact of a connection, a conversation or an event or activity. Tweeters liked the idea of sending yourself a note/reminder to review something in a few months time. Or better still, collaborate with others and agree on reciprocal ‘nudges.’ It’s quite possible that an experience, a training course, a conversation, a tweet chat, does not always result in immediate change but may contribute to a change process much later on.



The value that I attach to my CPD portfolio goes through different phases and that my attitude towards its purpose has a significant effect on my motivation to add to it.

Critics argue (and I have phases when I do too) that the submitting evidence of our reflexive practice could be construed as an unnecessary form of surveillance and intrusion. In this frame of mind, I have lost ownership of the process. It’s not for me, it’s for the auditors. Hearing about other forms of capturing CPD such as job descriptions, videos, appraisals, job roles we aspire to, photos and timelines reminds me that I need to maintain ownership of the process and maintain a product that is congruent with my needs. I was reminded that this is my story! One tweeter reminds us to view the CPD portfolio as ‘a tool to improve rather than a document to prove what you are doing’


Additional suggestions about the varied use of high and low tech tools, online and offline  (such as eportfolio, videos, voice memos or good old pen and paper) remind us that the portfolio should suit our needs. Don’t let the ‘online’ agenda or the proliferation of technology make us feel pressured into using tools that are not suitable for you.


Primarily, I think of my portfolio as a reflective diary but I was reminded that the portfolio can be used to support multiple trajectories. As a planning strategy, one tweeter suggested ‘starting with where you want to be and work backwards from there.’

Engage with others

Transformative CPD hinges on collaborative action. (see Kennedy 2005 for a great summary of CPD models.) There were lots of ideas in the chat about involving others in our professional development. 360 appraisals, recording brainstorming sessions by taking a photo of the mindmap, have a portfolio share time. And don’t forget the patients! Tweeters reflected on whether they were able to gather specific personal feedback on their performance from patients. I don’t think we were convinced this contributed to our development as strongly as we would like. I certainly know that the feedback I receive is most often generic service satisfaction feedback rather than individual feedback on how a patient or a student has perceived my performance.


Involving others can reduce the risk of isolation and the risk of preoccupation with isolated introspection, but it does come with it’s own risks. In sharing with others, we take the inherent risk with all feedback that we might not like what we hear. The alternate view is that in sharing, we might hear something positive or intriguing and we might also gain skills in encouraging others. Being prepared to be open to feedback is definitely something I need to do better. Someone please tweet me in three months time and ask me if I have moved this forward!

Alison Nickson @AlsNickson

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