PDP implementation at MMU: a review undertaken
by the Centre for Learning and Teaching (CeLT)
1 Introduction 3
1.1 PDP implementation at MMU 4
1.2 PDP minimum requirements 4
2 Data Collection 5
3 Responses 5
3. 1 Current provision of PDP 6
3.1.1. Optional PDP schemes
3.1.2. Via personal tutorials
3.1.3 Mixture of compulsory units and optional extras
3.1.4. Unit based compulsory strand throughout programme
3.1.5. Completely embedded PDP
3.1.6 Undergraduate versus Postgraduate provision
4 Further analysis 8
4.1 Exemplars of minimum, moderate and full deployment of PDP
activity in the curriculum (excluding opt-in schemes). 11
4.2 Student Engagement 13
5 Elements of good practice 14
6 Conclusions and Suggestions for further development 16
6.1 Conclusions 17
6.2 Suggestions for further development‟ 17
7 References 18
Appendix: Full List of Responses received 19
A review of PDP activity in MMU was undertaken in the early summer of 2008, by the
completion of a self evaluation template by programme leaders. Responses were
received from all Faculties and represented both undergraduate and postgraduate
A variety of models of PDP implementation are in use, ranging from a basic opt-in
system to one that is fully embedded in the curriculum. The most commonly
reported model is one where there is a mixture of compulsory and optional activity,
for example: a compulsory unit at level 4 (usually with PDP built into unit learning
outcomes) and optional extras (e.g. personal tutoring and/or career/skills based
input) particularly at levels 5 and 6. Features typical of the models were also
identified, such as support by personal tutor systems and use of credit-bearing
assessment which prevailed in embedded models. Several examples of good
practice which were felt to engender high levels of student engagement with PDP,
were shared by programme teams.
A consideration of the models identified, in the context of studies of PDP provision in
other institutions which have taken a similar approach to the “laissez faire”
development of PDP schemes, reveals that it is often the overall purpose of PDP as
identified (consciously or not) by staff, that determines the nature of the scheme that
is implemented. Three purposes of PDP are thus identified:
to produce a rounded “thinking” person (re: the concept of “graduateness”);
to produce an employable person with well developed transferable skills;
to produce a developing reflective professional
All three purposes are, arguably, equally legitimate ends to studying in higher
education. The PDP schemes implemented to achieve these ends will necessarily
have different emphases as they seek to provide students with structured and
supported opportunities to “reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or
achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development”.
The outcome of this review is therefore, a confirmation that we should not seek to
prescribe an approach to PDP, as differing approaches will be appropriate for
different student and discipline contexts. However, the report concludes with some
suggestions for how programme teams can approach the outcomes of the review
and the further development of their own PDP provision.
Following recommendations from the Dearing (1997) report, Higher Education
institutions (HEIs) were required to provide a means by which students could
“monitor, build and reflect upon their personal development”.
The QAA (2008a) define Personal Development Planning (PDP) as “a structured and
supported process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning,
performance and/or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and
career development”. Central to the idea of PDP are the processes of self-audit,
action planning, reflection and review. A range of approaches to PDP can be taken.
The benefits of PDP to the student include:
o an awareness of what is being learned and how;
o an ability to articulate achievements; and
o an approach to the process of learning that can be sustained beyond the
period of registration.
The benefits to institutions include:
o the possibility that if PDP is successfully implemented, and students have an
awareness of what is being learned and how, they should therefore be easier
o systematic monitoring of student progress can be used to develop more
effective academic support and guidance systems.
However, because individual HEIs have been allowed to interpret and develop PDP
along their own lines:
“the implementation of PDP differs markedly from institution to institution with different
emphasis in terms of:
• Key Purpose, e.g. employability, skills development, career management, learning to learn,
professional development, etc.
• Methods, e.g. throughout the curriculum, through personal tutoring, in discrete modules,
using e-portfolios, etc. and
• Models, e.g. based on learning cycles, reflective practice, record keeping, action planning,
coaching or counselling, etc.
The result is that there may well not be any such thing as PDP that is the same and
comparable across all UK HEIs.”
Peters and Burkinshaw (2007)
Peters and Burkinshaw are currently undertaking an evaluation of PDP
implementation across 16 HEIs to inform the national picture of the student
experience of PDP.
Within the context of these broader concerns of PDP provision nationally then, we
need to explore the basis of the understanding that we have, as an institution, of the
key purpose(s) and methods of implementation of Personal Development Planning.
The review reported here has, therefore, been instigated in order to gain an insight
into current practice at MMU and, of course, provide us with a basis for reflection on
the effectiveness of PDP provision offered and a catalyst for further development.
Further development might include, for example, opportunities for collaborative work
between academic departments and the MMU Careers Service (who have a range of
„career management‟ materials which can be adopted into PDP schemes by teaching
1.1 PDP implementation at MMU
At MMU there has been no centralised implementation plan for Personal
Development Planning, which has therefore allowed programme teams to develop
their own ways of implementing PDP. Such a multi-model implementation of PDP
has occurred in many HEIs and has been perceived as not only inevitable, but in
many ways, desirable (Anon., 2007).
A review of PDP at MMU was last carried out in March 2006 and recommended that
a minimum set of PDP requirements should be provided for programmes to check
their schemes against (see section 1.2).
A more focussed project in 2007 investigated student perceptions of PDP provision
in MMU Cheshire, the Foundation year and the Combined Honours Learning &
Employability unit (Hearn, 2007) which culminated in an appreciation of what would
make PDP work for students, listing features such as tutor commitment, relevance
1.2 PDP Minimum requirements
The QAA (2008b) documentation on Progress Files in HE provides a set of minimum
expectations for implementation of PDP in HE institutions which are widely used
across the sector.
For MMU, minimum requirements can be derived as follows:
1. All MMU students on HE award bearing programmes are provided with an
introduction to PDP or to PDP based activities (where these are embedded
within provision rather than being specifically articulated as “PDP” to students)
at an appropriate time before, or soon after, the beginning of their programme
2. Students are ultimately expected to take responsibility for their own personal
development planning. Input from other sources may take the form of
individual tutorial guidance; an explicit ethos of personal development
demonstrably pervading the curriculum or field of study; core units delivering
PDP opportunities; workshops delivered from within or outside of the
curriculum; involvement of professional bodies etc. The nature and scope of
opportunities for PDP and their recording and support strategies will be
determined by individual programmes.
3. All MMU students are given opportunities for guidance on how to reflect on
their learning and on how to develop their transferable skills.
4. All MMU students are given opportunities for guidance on how to build
personal development plans within the context of their fields of study and to
articulate their achievements to enhance their employability.
5. All MMU students are provided with opportunities to extend and develop their
personal development planning throughout their programme of study whether
their learning takes place on- or off-campus.
6. All MMU students are provided with information on how they might integrate
extra-curricula experiences (e.g. voluntary work, placement learning, part-time
employment etc) into their own PDP.
7. Programme teams should determine the nature and purpose of PDP as it
relates to their programme, and this should be articulated in relation to each
level of the programme in programme documentation, and also made clear to
students (whether or not specifically labelled “PDP”) e.g. via the programme
8. All prospectuses carry a general statement of the MMU PDP policy regarding
the institutional commitment to the promotion of the skills and attitudes
underlying effective PDP and its connection to the development of the
independent autonomous learner and the spirit of lifelong learning.
2. Data Collection
The intention of this review was to collect data relating to:
o a self-evaluation, by programme leaders, of PDP provision offered in relation
to the minimum requirements as set out in section 1.2;
o structures and processes in place to support PDP.
To this end, in April 2008 a template to record PDP implementation was designed
and distributed to an email list of 174 programme leaders (together with
accompanying notes including the above minimum set of requirements). Programme
leaders were asked to complete the templates or to report back in some other form if
the template was not deemed appropriate.
The term “PDP” is, as the quote from Peters and Burkinshaw (2007) above indicates,
likely to have been interpreted by respondents and programme teams in different
ways. Thus, even to define the term is problematic and while this report uses the
term “PDP activity” we recognise that this term may have different meanings in
Forty one „responses‟ were received providing information at different levels within
the institution. Responses varied according to how PDP was organised within a
programme, department or faculty, with some giving a faculty response while others
responded by programme. For example, three faculties gave single faculty-wide
responses (though some individual programmes within a faculty also responded); a
single return from another faculty covered 23 programmes; a response from another
faculty covered a single (somewhat unique) programme and so on. Two of the three
faculties responded with information on frameworks for PDP within the faculty, but
information on implementation within individual programmes was not available.
It is estimated that information supplied covers more than 170 undergraduate
programmes/degree titles and over 80 postgraduate programmes/degree titles, plus
information relating to Levels 4-6 of the Combined Honours provision and to the
Foundation Year. Although the “programme” has been used as a basis on which to
make comparisons, this should be treated with some caution because it is not always
clear whether information supplied relates to a programme area (cluster of degree
titles) or to specific degree titles, making quantification of the information somewhat
Responses were entered into an Excel spreadsheet and basic coding applied
relating to PDP structures and processes, extent of assessment activity, reported
levels of engagement, mode of student recording, degree of optionality in tutorial
support (where mentioned) and links to skills development.
3. 1 Current provision of PDP
All returns reported some PDP activity. In terms of structures and processes,
responses suggested that five main models (or variations of these) appear to be
used for delivery of PDP outcomes:
1) An opt-in scheme made available to students
2) Mainly via a personal tutor system
3) Mixture of compulsory units - usually with PDP built into unit learning
outcomes (most commonly at Level 4) - and optional extras (e.g. personal
tutoring and/or career/skills based input particularly at levels 5 and 6).
4) Use of unit learning outcomes designed to incorporate PDP activity
throughout programme via assessment (usually) into core units at all levels –
sometimes with personal tutorial systems also linked
5) Completely embedded PDP – either derived from Professional, Statutory and
Regulatory Body (PSRB) requirements (especially for Health or Law) or by the
nature of the discipline (particularly for art and design based subjects)
Figure 1 below gives an indication of the frequency of occurrence of these models of
PDP provision across MMU.
Fig 1 Frequency of five models of PDP
Number of programmes
Optional Mainly via PT system Mixture of Compulsory Unit based strand runs Compulsory strand
units and (optional) through course (some throughout programme
3.1.1. Optional PDP schemes
These have been adopted more by postgraduate programmes and are sometimes
offered where students are expected to have already been in employment. In
undergraduate programmes (notably in Levels 5 and 6 of Combined Honours and in
the HLSS faculty wide opt-in scheme) uptake is reported to be low. Thus although
we can argue that a structured and supported process has been provided, few
students are actually experiencing PDP activity if left to opt in.
3.1.2. Via personal tutorials
This is a relatively unusual model but occurs in both undergraduate and
postgraduate programmes. In one postgraduate programme it is used where a “light
touch” is deemed appropriate for “already career-minded” students. Where it occurs
in undergraduate programmes, students are generally invited to meet with personal
tutors to discuss progress or feedback on assignments. However, engagement relies
on attendance at these personal tutorials which is reported to increase at Levels 5
and 6, but tends to be patchy at Level 4.
3.1.3 Mixture of compulsory units and optional extras
The most commonly reported model, this most often consists of a core “skills” based
unit at Level 4 where PDP activity may be assessed as part of that unit‟s learning
outcomes, whilst at Levels 5 and 6, there is input in the form of either optional PDP
or employability-related units or an expectation that students will avail themselves of
personal tutors, provision of input by the Careers Service and/or (in Level 6) develop
PDP activities via project or dissertation work.
3.1.4. Unit based compulsory strand throughout programme
Some programmes are progressively developing or have developed a core strand of
units focussed around skills development, employability and PDP which occur at
each level. A number of those currently operating the mixed model above, are aiming
for this more structured model with planned developments working directly towards
3.1.5. Completely embedded PDP
Several programmes and programme areas (e.g subjects in Health and Social Care,
Education and in Art and Design) have elements of PDP built directly into the fabric
of programme delivery and design. This seems to be typical either where there are
explicit requirements of a PSRB, or where personal development, reflection and
recording are a natural focus (e.g. as an arts practitioner, actor etc). Faculty-based
responses from the Institute of Education and the Art and Design Faculty suggest
that provision falls into this category, although the details of these schemes are very
different from each other, for example in the assessment of the PDP activity: where
PSRBs are involved, assessment tends to be strictly prescribed. In art and design
based subjects, PDP activity per se is not usually assessed.
3.1.6 Undergraduate versus Postgraduate provision
As only one level is represented for taught postgraduate provision, models of
delivery fell into only four of the above categories, ie. no postgraduate programmes
could be categorised under 4) above and those postgraduate programmes with
highly structured PDP activity relating to a PSRB requirement were categorised with
the “fully embedded” model.
In general, undergraduate courses are more likely to have some assessment
associated with PDP than postgraduate where students are expected to be more
autonomous in their approaches to learning, skills development and employability
4. Further analysis
Thus, there is a considerable range of models of PDP implementation from the
voluntary, non credit-bearing provision based around attendance at workshops and
some reflective writing through to fully embedded models of personal and
professional development where learning logs, practice development and guided and
mentored reflection occur in line with highly prescriptive requirements of professional
bodies. Alongside these models (and associated structures and processes) are the
features of assessment, tutorial support, skills development and reported student
engagement. From the data received, and as Table 1 indicates, there are some
definite trends in these features that emerge.
Table 1. Basic trends in the features of the five “delivery models”
“Delivery Structures Assessment Tutorial Skills Reported
model” and support development student
1) Optional Opt-in Tends to be Tends not to Skills Tends to be low
system – non-assessed be workshops
self (non-credit- formalised provided
2) One to one Little credit Optional Most schemes Patchy-fair
Personal tutorials bearing /reactive tend to report
tutor system used for assessment tutorials strong linkages
PDP activity to skills
3) Core Some Tends to be development - Patchy-fair
Compulsory “PDP”/skills assessment proactive either via
unit and unit (level 4) via unit PT dedicated “skills
optional Optional learning meetings in and PDP” units
extras units or outcomes Level 4; or via
other PDP reactive at embedded skills
activity at Levels 5 provision or via
Levels 5 and 6 input from
and 6 Faculty Student
4) Unit based Core “PDP” Assessment Trend not Support Fair - good
compulsory units at all via unit clear Officers
strand levels learning
5) Fully Sometimes Explicit Strongly Skills Very good
embedded with assessment linked with development
structures at all levels tutor- integrated with
from PSRB assessor/m PSRB
e trainer Usually not
We could, therefore, roughly conceive of a „map‟ of PDP provision in MMU in relation
to these features as in Figure 2 below:
Fig 2 „Map‟ of MMU PDP provision and model-based features
MODEL Structures and Credit-bearing Tutorial Skills development Engagement
processes assessment of PDP Provision
Fully embedded Credit All must engage
PDP activity bearing Compulsory/proactive Fully embedded to gain a pass.
5 assessment /professional skills Students attach
of PDP at all mentoring development value to/report
levels enjoyment from
Optional skills and Few engage -
career/personal No credit Opt in those that do
1 management bearing Optional/reactive workshops find it valuable
provided of PDP
Many programmes are operating PDP activity currently in the area indicated by the dashed line – a relatively high emphasis
on development of skills, some tutorial input, some assessment (usually associated with a skills unit), and reports of
relatively low engagement. The programmes that report high engagement (if we exclude those programmes where students
must engage for PSRB requirements, or fail the programme) tend to be those where credit bearing assessment of PDP
activity is compulsory and linked to more than one unit.
4.1 Exemplars of minimum, moderate and full deployment of PDP activity in
the curriculum (excluding opt-in schemes).
So far, some broad indications of PDP provision at MMU from the data collected
have been presented. Another approach to analysis is to identify some exemplars of
the extent of PDP provision.
1. Programmes that have sought to provide a basic minimum of PDP
For example, one programme introduces students at induction and throughout
Level 4, provides a compulsory skills based 20 credit unit at Level 4 together with
Level 4 structured and recorded personal tutorial meetings. Assessment of skills
(but not specifically PDP) occurs in the compulsory unit. PDP at Levels 5 and 6 is
more informal with no dedicated mandatory unit. Engagement (enjoyment, finding
value) is reported to be low initially (Level 4) but increases as the student
progresses through the Levels.
2. Programmes that provide a moderate level of PDP activity
For example, one programme area aims to provide a comprehensive, structured
and explicit PDP strand throughout the three undergraduate levels. Each Level
has a unit that has some personal skills development element (study skills at
Level 4, professional development/research methods at Level 5 and an
integrative, reflective unit with some career management input at Level 6)
together with a personal tutorial element operating proactively at Level 4 and
reactively at Levels 5 and 6. Engagement (participation, finding value) reported to
3. Programmes that provide a high level of PDP activity
For example, in one programme area, highly focussed on student progression
into a single profession, students are introduced to the concept of PDP via the
PSRB requirement that they build a record of professional development. This is
reviewed at key transitional points in the programme, with students demonstrating
achievements against the profession‟s employability criteria. Thus the record kept
by the student is a cumulative portfolio of achievement that can be set against the
professional framework of standards at every stage. Engagement (participation,
finding value) is reported to be high.
These three exemplars fit quite well against the Professional, Employment and
Academic “ideal type” models of PDP as identified by Clegg and Bradley (2006),
described below, and further explored in Haigh (2008). It is interesting that where
large institutions with wide portfolios of courses are left to develop their own PDP
implementation plans, the diversity of understanding of the aims of PDP actually
result in broadly similar ends. These “ideal types” of PDP are described by Clegg
and Bradley (2006) as follows:
Professional: This model is focused on “the development of specific professional
competencies associated with employability in the specified field” and
also has an emphasis on particular use of modes of reflection in the
developing professional. It is also noted that in this model, “key skills
such as communication, problem solving, and working with others”
were felt to be “secondary to the personal attributes necessary for the
This “ideal type” relates to exemplar 3 above.
Employment: This model tends to occur in discipline areas where there may be a
strong external focus of both students and staff on “generic,
transferable skills which relate to employment…the process recognises
that students face a competitive jobs market, preparing and developing
skills required to gain initial job interviews….staff are acutely aware of
the position of their course within the employment market”... “Rather
than a shared set of well-understood principles based on the shared
value of reflection in PDP, as in the professional model, the
employment model throws up a series of dilemmas for staff in
motivating students to participate, as the rewards are perceived by staff
to be extrinsic rather than central to disciplinary values.”
This relates to exemplar 2.
Academic: In this model, the emphasis is on “academic development,
metacognitive skills, and the subject discipline-specific skills:
progression from school/leaver/novice to autonomous learner” and on
“socialising students into the language and procedures of the
discipline.” “Key skills…are included in the academic model…” but are
“firmly tied to discipline needs” (rather than the needs of employers)
There is the clear purpose to create a „graduate‟ rather than a
professional with a structured career path.
This relates to exemplar 1.
So, we can broadly categorise our provision in this way and recognise that the
diversity of provision that has arisen is arguably appropriate at this relatively early
stage of implementation.
Turning to the question of whether PDP is valued by our students is more
problematic. An attempt is made below to draw together staff reports of both good
practice and levels of student engagement. There were relatively few responses on
the question about level of engagement of students, so the range of views presented
below is necessarily limited.
4. 2 Student engagement
Programme leaders reported that student engagement in PDP was measured mainly
o Submission of associated coursework
o Attendance at tutorials, workshops, classes
o Feedback from unit evaluations
o Feedback from year tutor and subject tutor reports
o Quality of PDP reports/coursework submissions
o Downloads of PDP materials from VLE
Therefore, levels of engagement could variously mean participation, success,
enjoyment, as appropriate to the method of measurement used from this list.
Evidence from this review suggests that engagement is reported to be highest
1) Assessment of PDP activity is written into unit learning outcomes
This is usually measured by coursework submission. One respondent specifically
articulated that the decision had been taken to move to an assessment driven model
of delivery of PDP in order to generate increased participation.
“Our experience leads us to believe that the level of engagement is heavily
influenced by association with assessment”
Where assessment of PDP activity is linked only with a Level 4 skills unit, lower
levels of engagement tend to be reported.
“Some students clearly see value and benefit…others see it as a waste of 20 credits”
“In 1st year, all students engage to some extent as the 20 credits must be passed to
allow progression. However, I think it is true to say in the sense of appreciation,
student surveys indicate they see the PDP unit as of little academic value”
There seems to be an underlying tension being expressed here between the „room‟
that has been made in the curriculum for PDP and the lack of clear understanding of
the purpose of PDP.
However, the feeling that students were more likely to begin to see the value of PDP
as they moved through the levels of the undergraduate programmes was also
expressed by several respondents.
2) Professional practice drives PDP
A typical comment from a programme with a fully embedded model of PDP driven by
PSRB requirements was:
(Engagement) “very high as required in order to complete academic and
professional elements of the programme”
3) Staff are engaged and enthusiastic
“High level of engagement as measured by the quality of (PDP) reports…many say
the process is useful…student (and staff) feedback so far indicates that PDP has
been positively received by staff and students and that the structures processes and
assessment methods are working well.”
“Staff engagement is seen as a key to unlocking student engagement here”
The issue of staff commitment to, and enthusiasm for, PDP has been previously
noted in MMU (Hearn, 2007) as well as nationally (for example, Quinton and
5 Elements of Good Practice
Part of the review template asked respondents to identify any elements of PDP that
work particularly well that they would be willing to share as good practice. Most
responses indicated what staff felt was useful in securing student engagement.
Good practice reported was as follows:
1. The use of Development Centres in specially set aside times has been a
particular success and may well be of interest to other programmes in the university:
Development centres are used twice per year and are designed to elicit areas for
development (first) and progress in developing competence (second). At level 4 the
students receive input via tutorials and on-line materials but are given the opportunity
to experience real time practice during the development centres. The final
development centre enables measurement of progression and also integrates skills
with learning from across their programme via a business game.
Embedding the study skills sessions into the lecture appears to maximise the
exposure, since the students appear to relate the study skill directly to their current
assessment and value the sessions more
In some cases students have asked for further sessions to be provided as they
thought them to be so beneficial, i.e. with a group project – study skills were provided
in the first two sessions relating to team management, managing conflict, identifying
personal skills, how to contribute to group working, developing autonomous skills,
how to identify key roles, planning, time management etc. The students were then
supported through weekly seminar sessions (with a lecturer and technician) at level 4
until they developed confidence to work as an effective team.
At level 5 the teams were provided with feedback from level 4 regarding general
issues that had arisen, and how the teams had managed these (this was obtained
though tutor notes and student formative feedback at the end of year). They were
provided with another set of study skills sessions and a different project and given
much more freedom to manage the weekly activities. Attendance was monitored by
both the team and the tutor (peer pressure does have significant effects regarding
3. Regular reflection on progress embedded in course. Pulled together at regular
progress review meetings.
Personal tutor arrangements have enabled the scheme to occur in a setting
attractive to our already career-minded students.
4. (From an opt-in scheme) Element of choice for students and offering of wide
range of workshops.
5. Online reflective journals - as yet untried, but hopefully will form "effective bridge
between curricular support and Personal tutoring"
6. Timing of (PDP) reports seems to work particularly well (1 after induction looking
ahead, hopes and fears; 1 at year end reflecting on learning and achievements) and
the exercises serve as a reminder of extra study activities e.g. reading around the
subject, as well as encouraging effective use of assessment feedback. Early input
from the Careers Service to get students "CV-minded" from the start is particularly
well received and motivational.
7. The questions within the PDP are tied in with the benchmark statements for the
8. Direct vocational relevance and developmental nature of the programme means
that students have always had to engage with PDP though not by that name. This
has enabled us to promote separate non-assessed PDP as a purely supportive
aspect for the programme.
9. Students report enjoying concrete skills eg, citation practice, use of Turnitin,
critical writing skills. Time management is key area of development and careers
section also viewed positively.
10. (From an opt-in scheme) Students like the flexibility that derives from having the
possibility of one to one input as well as access to electronic materials when they
want them. Collaborative working across the university tapping into events occurring
11. Extensive evaluation and feedback gathered from students and teaching team
helps to refine unit content. E.g. introduction of early formative assessment to identify
problems and a hidden diagnostic test for dyslexia.
12. End of year summative statement has proved to be an excellent place for
reflection and setting new goals Visiting professionals give excellent input, relevant,
current and engaging to students. Professional placements have injected a new level
of application and understanding for those who have had the experience.
13. Personal tutor - role defined in personal tutor record book which is discussed
with the student in their first personal tutor meeting in first month of programme. Role
of PT involves liaison with the student in order to facilitate the student‟s personal and
academic development. Meetings once per term to facilitate student reflection on
personal and academic progress. Minimum requirement. Additional meetings may be
requested by either party. Personal tutor record book includes prompts.
14. Students are in the workplace - work with university tutors and practice mentors
to give appropriate credit for student progress. Highly integrated system of practice
and theory and professional development. Integration of work based learning, pdp,
skills development and use of mentors.
6 Conclusions and suggestions for further development
This review provides a snapshot of PDP activity in MMU in the early summer of
2008. Several respondents highlighted that PDP implementation is still in
development in many programmes, with intentions to develop more credit bearing
provision in some, for example. Other commonly reported developments were
related to the mechanisms of recording PDP. Typically, paper-based systems
currently abound but some departments are taking part in the PebblePad pilot which
will evaluate the efficacy of such technology-based recording systems. Others are
awaiting eagerly the wider availability of an electronic system.
There is some evidence, from other studies, that PDP takes time to demonstrate
beneficial effects – institutions that have been explicitly using PDP for 10 years with
their students report a higher perception from their students of the relevance of PDP
(Quintin and Smallbone, 2008). Quintin and Smallbone (2008) also, however,
acknowledge that there is, still, little direct evidence for the benefits that are assumed
to accrue from PDP activity in relation to employability or personal development.
The review has confirmed that there are a variety of approaches to PDP
implementation in MMU which are comparable to the models used in other HEIs. In
terms of assessing the features associated with delivery models of PDP that are
adopted in MMU, we can conclude that typically PDP provision:
o has a relatively high emphasis on the development of skills
o that uses credit-bearing assessment is associated with higher reported levels
of student engagement
o uses personal tutor input in many programmes. The use of this one-to-one
input tends to increase as the structures and processes of PDP become more
formalised (i.e. as models range from „opt-in‟ to „embedded‟)
The embedded model of PDP apparently has a lot of advantages, not least, high
reported levels of student engagement. This model occurs most obviously in
professional programmes which tend to have, of course, experience and support
(from PSRBs) in training professionals. However, the „developing of a professional‟
is arguably, only one aspect of „personal development‟. We can also identify good
practice in, perhaps, less obvious areas (i.e. non PSRB-driven) where personal and
professional development must necessarily collide (such as those embedded
implementations in performance or other art and design practice).
So, we must be mindful, as suggested in the introduction, that there is not a „one size
fits all‟ solution to PDP and the content of this review is not suggesting that there is
only one right way to “do” PDP.
However, this review can form a platform for evaluation of PDP provision by
programmes and the basis for considering developments. Some ideas of how this
could be approached are made in the following section.
6.2 Suggestions for further development
Programme teams, or those with responsibility for PDP curriculum planning, might
self-assess the purposes and activity currently under the PDP banner in their
programme, against purposes, models and good practice, some of which are
presented here. Initially, teams may wish to review:
o the purpose of PDP provision in the programme, for example, in relation to
“ideal types” - is the purpose primarily focussed on professional development,
academic development or career development?
o the model/s in use in the programme, and their appropriateness for the
student profile and field of study i.e. using what works for your students, in
your context in terms of the opportunities for students to experience the
processes of self-audit, action planning, reflection and review
o the clarity with which the purpose of PDP in a programme is communicated to
students and staff
o how best to evaluate their students‟ engagement with PDP
This review has attempted to summarise current PDP activity in MMU. Of course,
not all data collected is represented in this report, much of the detail of good practice
will however be developed into a „PDP good practice database‟ hosted by CeLT on
their website alongside further literature and research-based guidance notes.
However, current support is now available via CeLT in the form of:
o advice to programme teams in their review of PDP purpose, model/s and their
appropriateness, clarity of communication and evaluation of student
o direction of programme teams to those who have developed PDP
mechanisms that were reported to be good practice in this review (i.e. as in
section 5 above)
o advice on how to best use resources such as those from the MMU Careers
Service ( „career management‟ materials)
CeLT PDP contact: Dr Alicia Prowse, Principal Lecturer Learning and Teaching
(Student Experience) firstname.lastname@example.org ext: 6136
ANON., 2007. Universities UK on PDP Update workshop December 2007 (personal
CLEGG, S. and BRADLEY, S. 2006. Models of personal development planning:
practice and processes, The British Educational Research Journal, 32 (1), pp.57-76.
DEARING, R., 1997. Higher education in the learning society [online] [cited 24
September 2008] <http://www.leeds.ac.uk/educol/ncihe/>
HAIGH, J., 2008. Integrating progress files into the academic process, Active
Learning in Higher Education, 9 (1), pp.57-71.
HEARN, P., 2007. What makes PDP work for students?, Learning and Teaching in
Action, 6 (2).
PETERS, J. and BURKINSHAW, S., 2007. The national action research network for
researching and evaluating PDP and e-portfolio practice [NARN-PDP], PDP-UK
Newsletter, 12, p.6.
QAA, 2008a. Policy statement on a progress file for Higher Education [online] [cited
24 September 2008]
QAA, 2008b. Guidelines for HE Progress Files [online] [cited 24 September 2008]
QUINTON S., and SMALLBONE, T., 2008. PDP Implementation at English
Universities: What Are the Issues? Journal of Further and Higher Education, 32 (2),
Appendix - Full List of Responses received:
MMUBS Single faculty statement (PG) and single faculty statement (UG)
IoE Single faculty statement
Hollings 1 return for 5 UG programmes and 2 PG programmes in Clothing
Design and Technology
HLSS 1 return UG Sociology, Criminology and Culture, Media and Society
2 returns for UG Politics and Philosophy
3 returns for Law: PT LLB, Bar Vocational Course (PG) and Graduate
Diploma in Law
1 return for UG Economics
1 return for UG Cert of Personal and Professional Development
1 return for UG Languages
1 return for UG English
MMU Cheshire 1 return UG Contemporary Crafts
1 return UG Dance
1 return from Exercise and Sport Science inc 5 UG programmes and
dept related subjects in CH
1 return from Business and Management Studies
Science & Eng 1 return HND Electronic Engineering;
1 return BEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering;
1 return BEng Mechanical Engineering Network;
1 return FdEng Mechanical Engineering;
1 return BEng Electrical and Electronic Engineering (PT);
1 return for all BSC programmes.
1 return UG and PG Environment and Geographical Sciences
1 return PG UNIGIS (Dist Learning)
1 return UG (?) Computing Modular Degree
1 return PG Computing/Advanced Computing
1 return all UG and PG Biology/Biomedical Science
1 return for 4 PG programmes in Conservation Biology, Animal
Behaviour, Animal Ecology and Behavioural and Evolutionary
Combined Hons 1 return for CH Level 4 Learning and Employability
1 return for CH Levels 5 & 6
Foundation Year 1 return for Foundation Year
Art and Design Single faculty framework statement
1 return UG Acting
1 return UG Architecture
HPSC 1 return PG Physiotherapy Pre-Reg
1 return 2 UG programmes Speech Pathology and Therapy;
Psychology and Speech Pathology
1 return for all UG and PG CP3D programmes
1 return Fda Health and Social Care
1 return UG and PG Social Work