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How to plan your personal development at college

Personal Development Plans (PDP) bring on responsibility for your own learning

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What is Personal Development Planning?

Personal development planning (PDP) is an approach whereby individuals take prime responsibility and ownership for their own learning and development. A PDP is an action plan based on awareness, goal-setting, reflection, interests and preferences.

““The employee of the future is one who will be committed to a process of ongoing personal development””Tweet this

It is a structured and supported process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement to plan for their personal, educational and career development (Wright, 1996).

The primary objective of a PDP’s is to bring about change in individuals because it has the capacity to improve how much of your time do you want to give now to planning your future? PDP is also concerned with how we understand, and how we manage our learning.

As a process, it rests heavily on the skill of systematic reflection, and it empowers learners to take on their own learning, performance and achievements. The type of planning involved includes personal, educational and career development. Keeping a record of your achievements and progress checking are also important features of the PDP process.

When used in the context of academia, PDPs can be used to improve your ability to understand what and how you are learning, and to review, and take responsibility for your own learning. Because personal development planning (PDP) is about creating opportunities to think through your achievements and goals, in a structured way; a PDP will provide you with answers to many questions, including: 

Why PDP?

Any programme of study that encourages learners to engage in some form of CPD process, affording them the opportunity to plan their future will inevitably add value to their education, and increase their chances of success. However, planning takes time and commitment.

This is why for some, the PDP process can appear cumbersome — it is, however, most certainly worth it! Investing time into planning your future today will save time tomorrow and in the future. Of course you will have heard of so many celebrities who succeed without embarking on a programme concerned with planning their careers, despite how successful they are.

However, those individuals are classified as being ‘lucky’, and whilst we should celebrate success, we cannot waste our lives waiting, in hope that the same type of luck will strike us! Believe me, I have encountered many individuals who did just that … and they remain unhappy, bitter and dissatisfied today, wishing they had used their time more productively. So, investing time to plan your development today will no doubt be beneficial in the future. 

The pursuit of personal development

Commitment to personal development planning will help you to better manage the range of situations you will encounter in academia, work and life. Developing your ‘self’ signals a willingness to take responsibility for your own learning; explore your feelings; understand all that influences you; respond to career changes; welcome changes; and set aside time to reflect and develop

Through gaining an awareness of self through personal development planning, you will be in a better position to assess whether there is an appropriate fit between your ‘self’ and your occupational role. This constitutes an important discovery because sometimes the way we behave in our roles (in academia or work) is preconceived and reflective of how we think we should behave from our perceptions (real or imagined) of others in that role. Rather, what we should be doing is getting to know ourselves and developing our own professional style in relation to our role. 

The relationship between PDP and the world of work

So how does the process of PDP forge a link between academia and the modern-day workplace? The world of work is constantly changing and individuals are expected to be multi-skilled, and approach tasks in a multi-faceted manner. Organisations are demanding employees who are flexible and adaptable.

Nowadays, employers expect employees to understand their own performance — and to know how to adapt to meet times of increased workload, stressful situations or conditions of change.

The crux of the matter is that employees are expected to respond well to change. Whilst some employers offer training and coaching to assist employees, it is more typical for employers to expect employees to come equipped to manage both their own performance and the performance of others. Thus, devoting time to understanding what influences your own performance is a proactive and productive step. It will also help you to understand how your behaviour affects other people.

Personal development is important for organisations, considering they need more flexible and creative employees to assist them in meeting their business objectives. In a similar way, personal development is a way to ensure employees achieve more fulfilment in their work role.

Thus, the employee of the future is one who will be committed to a process of ongoing personal development; they will also know that change within organisations is constant and as a result recognise the importance of constantly updating their knowledge and skills.

They are aware of the need to develop the skill of constantly relearning, consider it an opportunity for growth and are not dependent on ‘experts’ to update their knowledge and skills.


Fact Box

How do I get started with PDP?

1. You may already be on a programme of study that incorporates PDP into initial skills training. Ask your personal tutor, Lecturer or Course Director about any PDP opportunities that are available to you. If not, there are many online resources available that will help you to construct a plan. Alternatively, I can assist you to obtain one if you contact me:

2. Commit to the idea of getting to explore and find out more about your learning style, preference, what influences you and how you influence others, reflect on your development, and welcome feedback.

3. Keep personal records of your achievements, including any feedback that you have gained from your lecturers.

4. Obtain a formal transcript of grades and certificates provided by the academic institution.

5. Complete a vocational interest test to ascertain more about your preferences. Again, I can provide assistance with this.

6. Construct a Personal Development Plan.



The 8 amazing skills students develop in a PDP?

PDPs can help increase your self-awareness (in terms of who you are and what you want); identify your current skills set, and compare them with your desired set so you can fill your skills gap; and record all your achievement that you can draw on when applying for new opportunities. Besides this, PDP will help to clarify your sense of direction and you will feel more in control of your studies and life. By being aware, you will develop your learning style which you will need to learn the areas in which you need to develop your skills.

A PDP is a working document — you have to commit to updating it. In doing so, you will be keeping a record of your achievements, you will have a ready-made stock of examples of your skills and experience that you can translate into what employers want.

When used in an academic setting, students gain from effective practice of PDP in the following ways:

• They develop the skills to reflect critically.

• Enhancing future career prospects.

• Increasing learning capacity.

• Improving self-confidence and ability to manage change.

• Clearer ideas about the kind of life and work you want.

• Greater confidence in the choices you make.

• Being in a better position to compete for jobs.

• Better problem-solving and planning skills.