Understanding peer reflection and CPD

Published: 06/10/2023

Author: Emily Smith and Vicky Hart

As part of their annual registration renewal with Social Work England, social workers need to upload a minimum of two different pieces of continuing professional development (CPD).

A peer reflection must be included with at least one of these pieces of CPD.

What is peer reflection?

Peer reflection means having a conversation with another professional about something you have learnt in a way that changes your social work practice. The prompt question on the Social Work England website is ‘Describe what you have learnt from discussing this CPD activity with a peer.’

The above definition is broad. Many social workers will already be having these conversations in different ways, for example:

  • informal conversations with colleagues in the office

  • supervision with a manager

  • group supervision

  • reflective team meetings

  • discussion groups as part of an event or learning day.

This conversation could be anything related to the social work role, as long as it helps your practice. For example, it could be sharing some good practice examples, problem solving and hypothesising about a tricky situation at work discussing wider current affairs that are impacting social work, or having a conversation about wellbeing.

We are, as social workers, constantly having these conversations with our peers, whether they be our managers, colleagues or people who work in different teams from us. We just need to reflect and capture the learning from these conversations.

The professional does not have to be another social worker. They can also be another professional who knows and understands your work, for example a teacher, police officer or health visitor. Social Work England have produced an example list of peers.

When writing your peer reflection, you should include what you have learnt and the impact that it has had on your practice. All peer reflections should be anonymised; you should not record the name of the person you reflect with. However, you should say what their professional role is in relation to you. This could include their job title and a short description of how they interact with your role. 

Peer reflection outside of direct practice

For social workers who are not currently practicing, peer reflection is an important way of staying connected to social work. This could look like talking to another social worker or professional about something you have watched or read that gave you a new insight into your area of practice.  

Positive practice examples

When recording CPD with a peer reflection, it is important to show how reflecting with a peer has or will have a positive impact on your practice.

Vicky Hart, Regional Engagement Lead at Social Work England, suggests the following scenarios as examples.

  • If you have read a useful article in a journal, or a piece of research, you might want to discuss your learning with a colleague in your team, or even in your team meeting. The additional learning from the discussion would be a good example of learning from peer reflection.
  • Sometimes, we have feedback from people we work with, or families or carers or from colleagues. Discussing the learning from this feedback with our manager in supervision could be written up as a peer reflection.
  • If you attend a course or a webinar and spend some time discussing what you have learnt in the session with another attendee, this can also be written up as a peer reflection.

For more examples, you can read about these peer reflection scenarios from Social Work England.  

Group supervision

Peer reflection can be an informal conversation with a colleague or other professional. It can also be a planned activity, for example during supervision or a team meeting. Research in Practice has developed resources to support structured peer reflection:

These open access resources include tools for individual reflection, group reflection and group supervision, to be used across adult services. It was developed as part of the Supervisor Development Programme, which offers a collection of tools to be used by supervisors in adult social work.

View the resources.

This briefing includes information about the benefits of group supervision, different models of group supervision and practical tools and templates for teams to use. It was developed as part of the Practice Supervisor Development Programme, which offers a large collection of free resources for practice supervisors and middle leaders in children’s social care.

View the resources.

This resource pack includes practical tools designed to help practice supervisors, supervisees and organisations build, develop and consolidate reflective supervision.

View the resources.

Reflective questions

When completing your application it can be helpful to consider the following questions:

  1. When did a conversation with a colleague help you make a decision? What happened in the conversation? What did you do as a result of the conversation?
  2. Think about a time that you talked to another professional about something happening in the news that affected the people you work with and your area of practice. What did you discuss? Did it impact the way that you practice?

As you look to complete your application and renewal this year, remember that having helpful conversations with colleagues can broaden your learning and improve practice.

Emily Smith and Vicky Hart

Emily Smith is a Research and Development Officer at Research in Practice. Vicky Hart is Regional Engagement Lead at Social Work England.

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