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About personal development

What is PDP?

Personal development planning or PDP means creating opportunities to think through, in a structured way, questions such as:

  • What do I really want to achieve from life?
  • What kind of person do I want to be?
  • Am I clear about my personal goals and ambitions?
  • Am I making the right decisions to get me where I really want to be?
  • Am I in charge of my life and my studies - or am I just hoping it all will work out somehow? 

It has been recognised that students need structured opportunities to think about, and plan towards, their future. The exact content really depends on you. 

What are progress files?

All universities are required to offer progress files to students. The term ‘file’ is misleading. Progress files really include three elements:  

In the work place, the personal development process may be linked to your annual appraisal or supervision. 

  1. A process of personal development
    Development planning can be a very personal process - or it can be a process required by your employer or tutor. As the word "development" suggests, PDP is something that happens over time. It isn’t a last minute thing. PDP works best when you:
    • Think deeply and in structured ways about your life and ambitions. What does success mean to you personally?
    • Have the right information to make good choices.
    • Have people you can trust to share your reflections.
    • Have opportunities to experiment and test yourself in new areas so that you have a better understanding of your abilities and limits.
    • Have opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills to achieve your ambitions.
  2. Personal records of learning and achievement

    These are your own personal records rather than those provided by the university.

    For more advice, see personal records.

  3. A formal transcript provided by the institution
    A formal transcript will be provided by the university, usually in addition to a degree certificate, it records more information about your learning and achievement than the traditional degree certificate.

Benefits of PDP to academic performance

Some advantages of taking a personal development approach to your studies are:

  • Gaining a clearer focus to your learning.
  • Helping to keep yourself motivated.
  • A better understanding of how you learn and how to improve your performance.
  • More enjoyment and less stress from your learning as you become consciously skilled.
  • More awareness of how to apply your learning to new problems and contexts.
  • Reflective thinking skills that can strengthen academic performance. 

Benefits of PDP to professional life 

  • Clearer ideas about the kind of life and work you want.
  • Greater confidence in the choices you make.
  • Greater confidence in the skills, qualities and attributes you bring to the career of your choice.
  • Being in a better position to compete for jobs.
  • Being better able to discuss your skills, personal qualities and competences with employers.
  • Better problem-solving and planning skills.
  • Developing the positive attitudes and approaches associated with successful professional life.

Many employers now 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. Employees are expected to respond well to change. Whilst some employers offer training, it is more typical for employers to expect graduates to arrive ready to manage both their own performance and the performance of other people. Time devoted to understanding what influences your own performance can be very well spent. It is also important to be aware of how your behaviour affects other people. 

Employees are often expected to show personal commitment to their continuous professional development (CPD), actively seeking out information, training and events that will keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date. Knowing how to learn, and how you learn best, will be invaluable in the work place.

Benefits of PDP to personal life

  • A better understanding of yourself and how you ‘tick.’
  • Being in a better position to make appropriate choices to meet your aspirations.
  • Greater awareness of your needs and how to meet these.
  • Greater awareness of the unique contribution you can make.
  • Developing a positive, forward-looking approach. 

For further advice, see Chapter 1 of Skills for Success by Stella Cottrell. 

Priorities and opportunities for personal development

Personal development is an ongoing process, in which you need to:

Identify priorities for personal development
Download this worksheet and rate your priorities for personal development

Identify personal development opportunities

Each university offers a different set of opportunities for personal and professional development. Download and use this questionnaire to map the opportunities open to you.

Create an action plan

Targets should provide clear guidelines for action and be built into an action plan. Download the action plan template to record your own targets. Remember, targets are not written in stone: they should be monitored and reviewed as the project proceeds so that it can be completed on time.

Monitor your progress

You may find it helpful to work to a format to explore your progress on current goals. Download this form to help you monitor your progress. Use this in conjunction with your action plan.

Evaluate your personal performance

Download and complete this evaluation sheet to assist you in improving your personal performance.

For further advice, see Chapters 4, 7 and 8 of Skills for Success by Stella Cottrell