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Frequently Asked Questions

If you're feeling lost in the mass of phrases and terminology, you may well find it helpful to look through our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Naturally, if you still have unanswered questions please get in touch via our online contact system and we'll do our best to help point you in the right direction.

What is Personal Development Planning?

'PDP' - Personal Development Planning - is a term currently used in higher education, although the processes of reflection review and action planning are well known in schools, further education and in Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Some employers also use the term.

Personal Development Planning is defined, in the most recent Guidelines for Implementation (Guidance for institutional policy and practice in higher education), as:

"...a structured and supported process undertaken by a learner to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development".

A copy of the current Guidelines (QAA, 2009) can be found here.


What are Records of Achievement?

This is a general description of a range of ways in which learning and experience is recorded, evidenced and often reviewed as a basis for future planning or action. Portfolios, Profiles, Career Learning Logs, Work Experience Journals, Personal and Academic Development materials are all examples of this process applied in different areas of education, and at different levels for different purposes.


What is a Personal Development Record?

A Personal Development Record (PDR) has been defined as:

"..... a record of evidence and personal reflection about knowledge, attributes, skills and experience from which students can extract information to construct CVs/Personal Statements/letters of application for a wide variety of audiences".

Keith Cooper, Directorate of Academic Student Affairs, Oxford Brookes University, 2001

Not many institutions – or other organisations – use the term, preferring alternatives such as Portfolios, Profiles, Career Learning Logs, Work Experience Journals, and Personal and Academic Development to define a range of ways in which learning and experience is recorded, evidenced and often reviewed as a basis for future planning.

In an increasing number of institutions, records are held electronically, often in the form of an electronic (e)portfolio.


What is CPD?

Similar problems of language also exist here. CPD is sometimes interpreted as Continuous (or continuing) Personal Development, which moves the focus beyond a professional level but might also imply a less employment-oriented emphasis. However, the major drive for CPD comes from the professional bodies and debate within them centres around issues of voluntarism or compulsion and the extent or nature of learning experiences needed to comply with their policies.

Some universities market their short course provision as CPD which can cause confusion by shifting the attention from an individual’s learning processes to the supply of opportunities. The situation is further confused by the fact that although most employers would recognise the need for CPD they would tend to use other phrases such as management development or personal development to describe their activities in this area.

CRA is currently extending its links with those engaged in CPD and workforce development.


What is a Transcript?

The Transcript provides a comprehensive, verifiable record of the learning and achievement of an individual learner.

Transcripts can also provide learners with a record of their learning while they are studying; a formative statement that should help students monitor and reflect on their progress, and plan their further academic development.

The formative statement can be incorporated into a student's personal progress and help them to plan their further academic development.

The UK Transcript is intended to satisfy most of the information requirements of the ED/Council of Europe Diploma Supplement initiative aimed at providing consistent transcript information to facilitate mutual recognition of qualifications. When combined with information from the programme specification, UK higher education institutions will exceed the information requirements of the Diploma Supplement.

It is recommended that Transcripts should be provided for all HE provision for which credit is awarded and for all provision that leads to an HE award.


What do employers think?

Within the world of work there has been increasing use of 'recording and reviewing learning and experience' over a number of years; in management development programmes, appraisal and performance review, and professional accreditation.

"Personal development planning is a continuing process into and throughout employment - a process which builds confidence and gives mutual benefit to the employer and learner".

Keith Bell, Director of Recruitment, Price Waterhouse

"Guardian Royal Exchange uses personal development plans to fit people better for their current job because they need to improve, or the job itself is changing".

Chris Phasey, Management Development Unit, Guardian Royal Exchange

When the similarities between developments in schools, colleges and universities and familiar in-house materials become apparent, employers are likely to welcome the process. Evidence indicates, however, that they are not likely to want to be burdened with the 'products' of learning and reflection: profiles, learning logs and other paper or electronic materials. They prefer that applicants engage in their own application and interview processes, but are able to describe and evidence more effectively what they have to offer.


What is the Higher Education Achievement Report?

An approach to developing and recognising graduate achievement, developed by a trial process overseen by a National Steering Group chaired by Professor Sir Bob Burgess, Vice-chancellor, University of Leicester.

You can access the first Steering Group report here, and the most recent report recommending adoption across the sector here. See also hear.ac.uk or contact the Centre for further information and support.

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