Identity formation: professional development in practice strengthens a sense of self

Margaret Anne Mackay

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This paper explores how practitioners in a hostile context make sense of continuing professional development (CPD). Critics worldwide question the professional status of human resources seeing the function as an underdog to well-established professions. The study uses an interpretivist approach to examine the conceptual interweaving of learning and identity development. Findings reveal that continuing development expands knowledge capabilities which affirm professional identity coherence. Professionalisation of the human resources field matters for the effective staff management of diverse multicultural workforces. This suggests a need for CPD providers to support practitioners better articulate and critically demonstrate the significance of sourcing, coordinating and retaining global talent. To counter pejorative views, practitioners base cumulative improvements in people management skills to a claim for renewed respect. This robust approach provides a resilient pathway for other occupational groups who aspire to professional status.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1056-1070
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number6
Early online date24 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • WNU
  • identity
  • continuing professional development
  • professionalism
  • human resources
  • practitioners


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