- PDP is essentially a process
- PDP is a student opportunity to reflect, plan and review learning
- PDP is related to the development of transferable skills
- PDP can and should result in a range of useful products
- e-portfolios can play a part in the process and be a medium for products
EPICS final report
The Dearing Report states that an institution should provide ‘a transcript recording student achievement which should follow a common format devised by institutions collectively through their representative bodies [and] a means by which students can monitor, build and reflect upon their personal development.’ (Recommendation 20, National Committee of Inquiry in Higher Education 1997).
The transcript, consisting of an institutional record of learners’ achievements and associated academic credit, has been widely implemented in HEIs (more information is provided in the transcripts held at The Centre for Recording Achievement). PDP implementation, in comparison, is patchy and very varied across, and between, institutions (Streeting 2007) and between different subject areas.
Professional education has used paper-based portfolios linked to PDP and lifelong learning since the 1980s (Cotterill et al 2004). For example, the Danish Ministry of Education and its education and training programme promotes an educational portfolio to support a personal educational plan (Stefani et al 2007). In vocational education, learners have often been asked to provide evidence of knowledge and competence. The e-portfolio is a natural progression to presenting such evidence.
PDP supported through e-portfolios has the potential to improve learner performance especially when linked to action planning and goal setting (Gough et al 2003) but initially it can be challenging to integrate into the curriculum (Gathercoal 2002). Some learners require significant scaffolding whilst others need a greater degree of flexibility.
Different pathways could be provided which have prompts for some learners, whilst examples to work on may be enough for others. At the University of Strathclyde, the MSc in Pharmacy has used an e-portfolio system to integrate PDP within the programme. Careful planning was required to ensure that the assessment focused on the process of learning as well as the product (Stefan et al 2007). There are different models demonstrating how e-portfolios can support PDP. Examples include a central repository for the storage of artefacts for PDP and an area which encourages learners to reflect on their management of their learning and plan for the future.
The Effective Learning Framework (ELF) (QAA 2006) provides a basis for an institutional model to support tutors in the implementation of PDP with e-portfolios. The diagram shows the three overlapping areas within the Framework:
- In the Personal area, learners develop their generic skills and also the ability to interrelate all aspects of their learning experience. This could include academic experiences and other experiences gained perhaps through part-time work, or sabbatical appointments with student associations
- Career-related skills such as career planning, interview techniques and self-presentation are included in the model. There would be substantial involvement of the institution’s Careers Service including in the implementation of ELF from the very beginning of the process in this area and it is essential that the Careers Service is involved in the implementation of ELF from the very beginning of the process
- In the Academic area of ELF, learners would be expected to clarify and embed the development of their knowledge and understanding of their subject-specific skills as related to specific learning outcomes
Jisc projects such as ISLE, FILE-PASS, ePISTLE and MANSLE demonstrate that the engagement of learners can be impacted significantly when there is a clear understanding of the roles of PDP and e-portfolios within the curriculum and how they facilitate learning. Replicating paper-based practice within the e-portfolio tool or having a more ‘woolly’ vision of the role of PDP will limit their impact.
Not all definitions of e-portfolio refer to or make an explicit connection between e-portfolios and PDP. This lack of an overt link may:
- Be a response to the negative connotations associated with PDP by some tutors
- Reflect that not all institutions envisage the e-portfolio system solely as an online tool to support PDP
- Be a sign that institutions are in transition from PDP supported by a paper-based system to an e-portfolio system
- Indicate that institutions are merely making a system available to show compliance with regulatory authorities such as the QAA (2001) rather than fully committing to the process of implementing PDP supported by e-portfolios (East 2005).
Consideration should therefore be given as to how explicit linking of PDP with e-portfolios is communicated across an institution.
The EPICS regional forum identified three models of institutional PDP implementation:
- PDP is not core to the institution; it is available to all learners at the institution and support is available. Engagement is minimal
- PDP has an accepted role in the learning environment and debate focuses on how best to make it available to learners. Tutors are supported to implement PDP
- PDP is an institutional requirement and consequently institutional approaches are sought to deliver it
The forum identified that, in most cases, newer universities with a stronger emphasis on learning and teaching perceived PDP as a tool to enhance the learning environment. Perhaps surprisingly FE institutions felt that the driver for PDP was partnerships with HE institutions to deliver Foundation Degrees. Older universities experienced less tutor engagement with their focus on research. This difference in approach was reflected in the Kent PLPP Project where it was noticed that skills development in FE was more quantitative whereas in HE it had a more reflective focus.
Approaches to PDP/CPD within the education sector can be quite diverse. The creative arts experience contrasts with that of health sciences. Differences in PDPs in further and higher education can hinder learner engagement. The ISLE project highlighted how the lack of interoperability between e-portfolio systems in different institutions can frustrate learners.
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) breaks the personal development planning (PDP) process into seven stages and key milestones. This is a useful framework based on a typical lifecycle model and one that has been adopted by some institutions in Scotland. Further details can be found in the Tutor Guide to Assessment and the Implementing section.
There will be certain stages when PDP will be critical in helping a student, for example, during the first year, when on placement and when leaving education.
As the Associate Centre of the Higher Education Academy, the Centre for Recording Achievement is charged to support PDP and e-portfolio implementation. The CRA website has many PDP-related case studies about PDP and explains the difference between PDP and CPD. A list of institutional enablers and inhibitors for the implementation of PDP has been produced by Betts and Calabro.