PDP at universities – shock and awe

Our most recent assignment has included reviewing the resources provided to help students with PDP planning at various universities, including Bournemouth and Liverpool. It’s impressive, sophisticated stuff, including personality tests, skills audits, goal setting, consideration of employability, social development and all sorts of things. The experience has left me a little shocked. This may seem a bizarre reaction, but let me explain.
Firstly, I am shocked at how different all this is to my time at university. When I left university, admittedly nearly 20 years ago, there was nothing resembling this. I do not recall ever being asked to set goals, reflect on my development or draw up plans of any sort. We just sort of got on with it, by and large we enjoyed it, got our degrees and I suppose we developed as people. But it happened more or less by chance. I think I would have got much more out of the experience if I had planned like this.
Secondly, I find this picture hard to square with my recent experience of graduates. I have never taught undergraduates, but I have conducted more graduate interviews than I care to remember and I teach trainee professionals now, many of whom are recent graduates. Sometimes I come across graduates who have clearly thought about their goals and development. But they are very much the exception, and I don’t tend to find much expertise in reflection and planning. So I wonder if this stuff is really getting through. Maybe research has been done on the impact of PDP planning on students – I would love to see it if so.
Thirdly, our core text (Stefani, 2005) argues passionately for faculty to do their own PDP, to model best practice and be able to help their students better. Here, I am shocked that it is even necessary to argue this point. Surely it is self-evident that faculty cannot, with credibility, ask their students to do PDP if they are not doing it themselves? Surely any programme of PDP must start with faculty and then, when it is well established, roll it out to students? Otherwise, aren’t we falling into the old trap of thinking that personal development stops some time in your early twenties? Faculty will not be able to help students do this if they have no experience of it themselves.
On the other hand, just imagine what we could achieve as a body of educators, and what we could help our students to achieve, if we did this properly. That’s where the awe comes in.
Stefani, L. (2005) ‘PDP/CPD and e-portfolios: rising to the challenge of modelling good practice’ (online), Association for Learning Technology. Available from: http://www.alt.ac.uk/sites/default/files/assets_editor_uploads/documents/lorraine_stefani_paper.doc (last accessed 12 October 2011).



Filed under H808 the eLearning Professional

2 responses to “PDP at universities – shock and awe

  1. A thought provoking overview although I am actually glad my experience at university, which sounds like yours, was based on more serendipitous encounters rather than actual planning and goal setting.

    It does make you wonder who, if anyone, is doing PDP properly. I still have yet to meet someone who really really uses an eportfolio ‘properly’.

    • Thanks Sukaina. I guess it’s personal, but I do feel I would have benefitted from more thought and planning about what I really wanted to get out out of my time at university. For both PDPs and eportfolios, it seems there is a big gap between the “talk” and the “reality”. Certainly in the UK, both seem to have been promoted as top-down initiatives. Individual institutions have taken an attitude of compliance at best, so boxes have been ticked, but it’s not clear there has been much benefit gained from either of these tools, because there has been no real acceptance of their benefits, and limited effort put in to using them properly.

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