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Progress Files Enhancement Personal Development Practice in Higher Education. Pauline E. Kneale, School of Geography, University of Leeds, Plan. Progress Files/PDP - What the point is & what they are/can be 2.30 Examples:Alison Voice - Physics

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Progress Files Enhancement Personal Development Practice in Higher Education

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progress files enhancement personal development practice in higher education

Progress Files Enhancement Personal Development Practice in Higher Education

Pauline E. Kneale,

School of Geography,

University of Leeds,


Progress Files/PDP - What the point is & what

they are/can be

2.30 Examples:Alison Voice - Physics

Margaret Wilkinson - Design

Mary Swan - Medieval Studies

Nalayini Thambar - LUBS

3.10 Andrew Thompson - Relevant deadlines

3.20 Bob Gilworth - Break-out session (force field analysis)

3.45 Finish

pdp at leeds university
PDP at Leeds University
  • Started in 1996 DfEE project – A Strategic Model for Developing Methods and Materials for Recording Achievement in Traditional Universities. (R&RA2000)
  • Pilot projects in all Faculties and reasonably comprehensive uptake across the university
  • Development of good practice examples
  • This is a good time to review and update
what is a progress file qaa 2003
What is a Progress File? (QAA 2003)

Progress Files 'should consist of two elements: a transcript recording student achievement which should follow a common format devised by institutions collectively through their representative bodies; a means by which students can monitor, build and reflect upon their personal development’. (recommendation of the National Committee of Inquiry in Higher Education; 1997)

While the term Progress File suggests that it is a document charting the progress of an individual, the overall concept contains:

an individual’s personal records of learning and achievements, progress reviews and plans that are used to clarify personal goals and can provide a resource from which material is selected to produce personal statements (e.g. CVs etc) for employers, admissions tutors and others;
  • structured and supported processes to develop the capacity of individuals to reflect upon their own learning and achievement, and to plan for their own personal educational and career development. The term Personal Development Planning (PDP) is used to denote this process.
  • Progress Files help make the outcomes, or results, of learning in higher education more explicit, identify the achievements of learning, and support the concept that learning is a lifetime activity.

(QAA 2003)

  • The PDP element of the policy objectives should be operational across the whole HE system and for all HE awards by 2005/2006

(CVCP 2001)

UG, TPG and research students

pdp aims to raise academic standards
PDP Aims to raise academic standards
  • BUT
  • Staff are ambivalent about value
  • Some staff consider it is not their role to do personal development activity
  • Students are on average lukewarm


  • They get really involved and then they do see their own development (for example through a 10 credit reflection and PDP module)
  • Feedback ranges from scepticism to enthusiasm.
  • Part-time and overseas students were particularly enthusiastic, finding it helpful with time management and prioritising.

Student responses fall into three groups:

  • Students using the document strategically:
    • and to compare what I am now to what I was six months ago.
    • I didn’t really think it was much use at first, but after 18 months I can see that the notes we made at the end of the first exams were useful’.
    • I was surprised, it seemed to be a waste of time at first, but I now realise what a help doing some planning can be.
    • Recording helped me realise what I have learnt this year.
Those who recognised the positive potential of the approach
  • If I took time to read the Portfolio, I am sure I would find it very valuable in aiming for the future.
  • It is tedious but is useful to enable improvement through time.
  • Maybe I would use it at the end of the year to reflect upon the whole years work.
  • I know I should be using it more, I am not good at this sort of thing, so having to do it for my tutor would be useful.

Those who were dismissive of the recording process in particular:

  • I assess what I am doing myself, I don’t need a book to help me.
  • I don’t need to write down experiences and achievements, I think I can remember.
  • It’s too early to plan ahead, I don’t know what I am doing next week.
Students who are frustrated:
  • Ifilled it in and my tutor was not interested.
  • My first year tutor did lots on this with us, but the one we have now said he thought it was a waste of timeso I haven’t looked at it since last summer
some research results 2003 4
Some research results 2003-4

87 UG students, mixed interviews and written responses

Think it is a good idea but should be monitored by staff 68%

I think it is a very good plan but it must be continually assessed or it may not be useful

They should be used in an effective manner to get feedback from all directions

It is a good idea but needs to be used properly. Intrinsically motivating to know to have progressed and new skills acquired but if just a file, rather than interview as well, could easily be forgotten

your pdp is private to you do you want staff to write in it
Your PDP is private to you.Do you want staff to write in it?
  • Yes 80+%

It needs to be a dialogue, otherwise I cannot be interested.

I want the feedback, I probably won’t do much about it but be better than not knowing what a tutor thinks

when should it be done
When should it be done?
  • I think time should be set aside for them so it does not feel a hassle
  • I think a lot of time has to be allowed for effective PDPs to be created. I personally don’t enjoy PDPs and feel it is an area I need to concentrate on to gain its benefits
  • Every 3 months (agreed view of group of 6)
  • Each term is about right (majority)
format and style
Format and style
  • PDP with open ended questions allows more effective reflection
  • I like tick boxes as well as general questions
  • It should not be in the form of tick boxes as this encourages laziness
  • Tick boxes are good
  • Key aims and objectives are better than long lists
  • I think it should be open and not constrained or structured, this way people give their honest views how they see it rather than accommodate a structured method

Suggests a mix of styles and prompts would be useful

Motivating Student Personal Development PlanningLinking student performance development planning to employability
  • Ongoing project
This project aims to improve students understanding of the role and value of planning and reflection
  • Showing that reflection and planning are serious work place activities
  • Putting workplace practices in the student domain
  • Giving academic staff easily accessible materials to work with.
web based resource
Web based resource
  • Created for use by all HE tutors and students in all subjects.
  • Designed to enhance the use of personal development planning amongst HE students through the use of current performance and review documentation used by a range of companies.
  • A broad range of companies and organisations have collaborated in sharing their materials. This is on the understanding that when their materials are used with students the organisation concerned will be acknowledged.
4 sections
4 sections
  • Student Activities
  • Portfolio Pages
  • Company Performance Development Plans
  • Links
section 1
Section 1
  • Individual, small or large group activities
  • These draw directly on the company materials.
  • They follow a format of Tutor Notes and Student Materials. They are self-contained and easily reproduced from Word documents.
  • The intention is that tutors cut and paste the Student Materials to their own handouts.
  • The Tutor Notes gives information on running the session.
  • All activities are suitable for use in 1 hour or shorter sessions usually with some preparation. Can be used in tutorials or modules.
Creating Development Plans
  • What does a Development Plan look like?  Comparing your current practice with  company procedures at Woolworths or HBOS
  • Personal Development: Reviewing a year, the CRAC approach

Activities to promote reflective writing for PDP

  • Self-regulated learning - how do you complete academic activities?  Reflecting on personal experience with Avenade
  • How do I learn? Reflecting on personal experience with Avenade
Activities related to goal setting
  • Goal setting for a project, module, placement or semester using BAE Systems planners
  • Reviewing performance against goals using Woolworth’s criteria
  • Incidents and achievements, preparation for interviews with Bradford Metropolitan District Council
  • Assessing personal competencies with BNFL, preparing for interviews.
Planning for the longer term
  • Setting longer-term goals using BAE Systems planner
  • Valuing your degree skills, preparing for interviews with BNFL

Career Development Activities

  • Planning for the Future using Somerfield’s template
  • How will you be managed? Research and reflection based on Avenade / Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s  /  Environment Agency’s approach
  • Adapt them for your own uses
section 2
Section 2
  • Examples of pages that could be used in departmental or institutional Personal Planning Portfolios which incorporate the company materials.
  • They are a template for tutors adapting their own materials.
  • Adapt them for your own uses
section 3
Section 3
  • Original documentation from the companies who have collaborated in the project.
  • These Personal Development materials are reproduced directly and presented in html and Word formats for easy downloading and use.
  • Adapt them for your own uses
section 4
Section 4

Links to other web sites that are concerned with Personal Development Planning materials for HE students.

  • Centre for Recording Achievement This the main site to visit. It has a links section that indexes agencies, projects, publications and institutional web sites with PDP or progress file information.
  • National Record of Achievement (NRA) web site hosted by DfES
  • Personal development planning in Higher education (Scotland)
  • QAA Progress Files for Higher Education
reviewing performance against goals using woolworth s criteria
Reviewing performance against goals using Woolworth’s criteria

Tutors notes:

  • This is suitable for use with level 2 and 3 students who have established goals or targets in their PDP activities in previous years.
  • We suggest they are asked to prepare their grid in advance of a meeting, 1:1 or in a group and be ready to discuss progress and future goal setting. This might follow on from the ‘Goal setting for a project, module, placement or semester using BAE Systems planners’ activity.
  • You may wish to copy this section of the Woolworths materials into the student’s PDP or Portfolio.
  • Items in the Student materials in italics need tailoring to the specific task.
Student materials:
  • Taking stock of personal progress is a standard element of performance review. Most of the professional materials for review that can be found at
  • pdpindex.html have a report section. The one below is reproduced from the Woolworths materials.
  • Woolworths Group plc is one of the UK’s leading retailers focused on the home, family and entertainment. There are 808 stores and the group includes EUK, VCI, MVC and Streets Online.
  • Using this grid review 5 of the goals of targets you set your self in your PDP review at the end of last year / semester. How are you progressing? What action points arise for the next …. months?
  • To do this well plan time to mentally review your activities, make notes and cogitate on opportunities you took advantage of and also think about what you might have done. Remember that most people do not succeed spectacularly in all areas. For most people objectives are part of the journey , and in writing recognise where things will change. The object here is to become more confident in your ability to articulate your successes, to be objective about them and in a stronger position when writing reflectively.
review against last years objectives
Review against last years objectives

Overall Rating for Objectives Shortfall On Target Exceeded

This is for discussion / submission on ……………………..

This task should be completed by … and included in your PDP

What does a Development Plan look like? Comparing your current practice with company procedures at Woolworths or HBOS

Tutor notes:

  • Students are asked to read the material given to Woolworths or HBOS employees and reflect on its implications for their own planning. You may wish to pre-select the company.
  • Either make multiple copies of the plan or direct students to the documentation at and click on the HBOS or Woolworths Development Plan link.
  • Items in the Student materials in italics need tailoring to the specific task.
Student materials:
  • Creating and managing your personal development planning is a normal company procedure. Companies give guidance to employees through briefings and documentation. An example is presented here for the international Woolworths business and for HBOS.
  • You are asked to review the procedures used by HBOS or Woolworths with their employees and to reflect on the process with respect to your own current activities. Take time to do this. Do not confuse factual descriptions of what Woolworths does or what you do with reflections on your reading and practice. Writing factually about what you do is not the aim. We suggest you read the documentation and think about it for a couple of days before drafting your response, then redraft a couple of days later when you have had time to consider further.
  • Write a 500 [1000] word reflection on the Woolworths development planning process emphasising what you have learned from your consideration of the materials.
  • The documentation can be found at click on HBOS or Woolworths Development Plan link
  • This is for submission on ……
organisations collaborating to date
Organisations collaborating to date:
  • Avanade ● BAE Systems
  • BNFL ● Environment Agency
  • Bradford Metropolitan District Council
  • The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management
  • CRAC
  • Kirklees Council ● HBOS plc
  • Somerfield plc ● Woolworths
  • Would you like to get involved with using these materials?
  • We are intending to increase the site over the next two years.
  • If you use the site and write materials we could add to the site please share them.
student comments
Student comments:
  • This is more interesting than the university booklet thing, you can see the reason for doing it.
  • I am not sure that I really want to take time on this just at present. I know I should but for university study I can get enough done without. I will do it at work when it means something.
  • I was really surprised that a company like HBOS takes this sort of time with staff. Planning for courses in the next two years seems a long way off.
  • I could being doing more on this, I find reflecting difficult so it is good to see different ways to try.
  • It was really interesting talking about our plans and working out what you need to do to get ready for an interview. Having the Avenade template made it seem more relevant.


  • Academic staff benefit where students become more independent and self-confident learners.
  • Careers Advisers working with students from these disciplines comment on the greater maturity of these students expressing themselves at interview, and the increasing level of self-confidence that students who are familiar with the reflection skills exemplify.
  • But staff engagement matters
comments from students using pdp at work
Comments from students using PDP at work
  • I have used it at my present job, -each month myself and my team leader go through a PDP. Very effective easy way of stimulating increased performance levels (beneficial for the company) but also opens doors that enable me to go up the ‘ladder’.
  • In my current job I think it is useful. People don’t enjoy doing it but if you have something to say it is a good way of saying it. Also you can get recognition for your work. It can improve the way someone sees you.
  • Edwards, G. 2002 Connecting PDP to employer and the world of work [on-line]
  • Moon, J 2002 PDP Working Paper 4, reflection in higher education learning, LTSN Generic Centre, York, UK
  • Kneale, P.E. 2002 Developing and Embedding Reflective Portfolios in Geography, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 26, 1, 81-94

Useful Web Sites

Centre for Recording achievement

QAA National Qualifications Framework:

QCA Key Skills Specifications:

CVCP 2001 Guidelines for HE Progress Files


QAA 2003Progress files for higher education

Activities and associated PDP materials are available to download in Word from

Available to all, in exchange for acknowledging the company and an email to me.

The Faculty Reflective Portfolio, UG and TM versions are available to download in Word from

follow up event
Follow Up Event
  • A New Take on Personal Development Planning: using Employer and CPD resources to motivate staff and students
  • Date 26th March/20th May 2004
  • Location 26th March 2004 - University of Westminster London,
  • 20th May 2004 - University of Leeds.