To make the most of continuing education (CE) sessions, try these research-based tips:
Assess your learning needs. Make sure you think about the skills you need and choose CE accordingly, says Susan J. Simonian, PhD, a past chair of APA's Continuing Education Committee. If you need a new skill, choose a beginning workshop. If you want to enhance existing skills, pick an intermediate or advanced workshop. Don't just think about content as you choose a workshop; also consider whether the format will facilitate your learning.
Be prepared. "Come into a workshop with an expectation of what you'd like to get out of it and be disciplined about pursuing that," advises Greg J. Neimeyer, PhD, who directs APA's Office of Continuing Education. If you're not getting what you want, ask questions so that the presenter can tailor the presentation to your needs.
Go for deep-level reasoning. "Sometimes we go, sit and take notes and leave, but that's not the best approach in terms of accelerating learning," says Simonian. Instead, she says, think about how you'll transfer what you've learned to your own work setting once you leave the classroom. Don't just focus on the what, where and how of what you're learning. "Think about applications and exceptions to the rule," she says. "Try to engage the presenters in that dialogue." Don't pass up opportunities to ask questions and request additional illustrations or examples.
See fellow participants as sources of learning. You shouldn't just learn from the presenter, says Neimeyer. "Recognize that in any workshop, people are coming from very different walks of life," he says. "Take advantage of that diversity by interacting with other participants to get a sense of the range of applications."
Participate. Don't just sit there, Neimeyer emphasizes. "All the literature shows that the greater your participation, the better your learning and translation of that learning into practice."
Provide feedback. Sharing what worked — and what didn't — with the presenter helps improve CE over time, says Neimeyer. "That's a critical way that psychologists can maximize both their benefit from and contribution to new learning," he says.
—Rebecca A. Clay