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Personal Development Planning (PDP)

The four key ingredients for students' personal development planning in HE are:

  • planning (individual students setting goals for learning and development);
  • experiences (that are selected to achieve goals);
  • recording (of the thoughts, ideas and experiences that make up learning);
  • reflecting (review and evaluation of the process and products of learning, and revision of goals).

It is expected that all UK HE institutions provide opportunities and support for PDP within and outside of the curriculum, although the ultimate responsibility for deriving benefit from PDP rests with individual learners.

The University of Bradford has participated in two major research programmes relating to PDP, and the evidence from these informs the ongoing development of our practice:

The University of Bradford is an institutional member of the Centre for Recording Achievement.

What is the University's approach to PDP?

The University of Bradford's Framework for Students' Personal Development Planning was approved by Senate in May 2005.  The Framework is based around three 'models' of PDP:

  • Model 1 'Opportunity Based';
  • Model 2 'Programme Outcomes Based'
  • Model 3 'Assessed Progress File'

Schools are expected to implement one of these models on each HE course or programme that they are responsible for.

The following table summarises what each of the three models involve:

CharacteristicModel 1Model 2Model 3
a) Students are entitled to a regular review of progress, including support for PDP   X  X  X
b) Opportunities for the development of professional/key skills and PDP entitlement are incorporated in programme specifications and module descriptions.  X  X  X
c) Opportunities for the development of professional/key skills are embedded in the curriculum.  X  X  X
d) Courses publish their implementation plan.  X  X  X
e) Courses develop and maintain monitoring system  X  X  X
f) Modules incorporating specific PDP and/or skills development are incorporated into at least one programme stage.     X  X
g) Specific professional/key skills outcomes and PDP entitlement and opportunities are incorporated into programme specifications and assessed through modules.     X  X
h) Modules incorporating specific PDP and/or skills development and assessment incorporated into all programme stages.       X

Student are encouraged to augment their course based PDP with the range of extra-curricular learning opportunities available to them at the University.

Where do e-portfolios fit into PDP?

A key aspect of the framework is that an electronic space be provided which provides both a private space for students to store notes and any outcomes from any PDP activities, and the opportunity for students and tutors to access documents produced for review. Such a space is an e-portfolio system. The university has adopted PebblePad as its e-portfolio entitlement to students. If you are thinking about using PebblePad to support PDP, please contact for help and advice.

The University of Bradford participated on the Fourth Cohort of the Inter/National Coalition for Research into Electronic Portfolios. Our research looked at e-portfolio use within five modules at the university. Our final report includes general recommendations for the use of e-portfolios to support personal development planning, and in particular to support the development of learner autonomy.

What advice and support is available?

The Centre for Educational Development can provide consultancy and support to individual staff, course teams and schools in their interpretation and implementation of the University's PDP framework. We normally begin by looking at your existing practice as we find that many course teams are involving their students in elements of PDP without necessarily realising it.

In addition Careers Development Services can provide advice and support with those aspects of the curriculum relating to the development of students’ employability.

What research and development work is there?

A small network of staff that are interested in researching and evaluating PDP activity is developing within the university. At the moment this is focused around two three year projects:

  1. National Action Research Network on Researching and Evaluating Personal Development Planning and E-Portfolio Practice (2007-2010). This project is funded under the first round of NTF Projects. The University of Bradford is the Northern regional lead within this network.
  2. Fourth Cohort of the Inter/National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research.

If would like to learn more about these projects, or have your own ideas for researching and evaluating PDP, please contact us.

Where can I find out more about PDP?

The University is an institutional member of the Centre for Recording Achievement (CRA) whose website provides a wealth of resources on PDP and e-portfolios.