All UK universities are strongly encouraged by their funding bodies to offer PDP to their students. Personal development planning encourages the student to reflect on his learning, his achievements and his career development goals. This can be supported by paper-based or electronic recording systems, either of which can in principle be carried forward by the student beyond graduation and could form the basis of a record of life-long learning. As well as encouraging the student to think about what they are engaged in, this is also useful for eventual registration as a professional engineer.
Despite these clear advantages, it is usually difficult to persuade students in the early stages of their studies to take the process seriously. Academic staff are often urged to stimulate student interest, for example during tutorials, but it might be more effective to involve external industrial friends and alumni in pointing out the usefulness of the exercise and the potential importance of PDP. Some universities offer a significant amount of academic credit for student PDP activity, although my personal view is that this is inappropriate.
There is a comprehensive guidance document about PDP on the web site of the QAA, at http://www.qaa.ac.uk/AssuringStandardsAndQuality/Pages/PDP-publication.aspx
Tony Price writes: I also recognise the problem of engaging students in PDP. This year, as an experiment, I provided the students with a radar plot of employers’ satisfaction with graduate employability skills as published by the CBI without declaring what it showed (CBI, 2012. Learning to grow: what employers need from education and skills – Education and skills survey 2012. pp.58. http://www.cbi.org.uk/media/1514978/cbi_education_and_skills_survey_2012.pdf).
I asked students to plot their self-assessment of the skills on the same plot and then gave them the explanation of the CBI data. On the reverse of the sheet students were then asked to write a note to their future selves on which skill(s) they wished to develop in the forthcoming 15 weeks. The sheets could be folded to hide their comment and plots. In an address box they wrote their pigeon hole number. Those that wished to (and a good number took the opportunity) posted their sheet in a sealed ‘ballot box’ as they exited the room with the undertaking that I would return the sheet, unread, to their pigeonhole 15 weeks later so that they could reflect on their progress. The box sits in my office awaiting the return date and I suspect most students have forgotten about it, but I hope the return of the sheet will reignite their thoughts on PPDP and employability skills.
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