A recent TED video (short) raised the idea to me that those who have a tendency to announce their goals to others may be more likely to be distracted from the achievement of them. The video flags research undertaken last year by Gollwitzer on external goals, summarised in Newsweek in brief also.

Whether this research  means that if anyone announces a goal they are less likely to achieve it, or whether it is more about personality types i.e. those who announce goals enjoy the premature response, and are therefore by the nature of their character less likely to  achieve, I am less clear. That aside, I thought there were implications from this, for formal PDP and particularly, goal setting.

If we set goals through the formal process of PDP and make them explicit, is there a point at which sharing becomes unproductive, even potentially damaging? Where would this point be? How does this sit with the shape of increasingly formalised PDP modules and programmes?

PDP is a process – it is very much more than the product of the ‘personal development plan’ which is so often deemed the end game of formal programmes. With an increased and increasing emphasis on PDP in HE, we need to be careful not to over-emphasise goal setting but rather facilitate learners, in whatever ways they wish, to make conscious, informed, empowered and inspiring choices for themselves. This may mean that we raise awareness of approaches and strategies to take control of one’s own development, and develop skills for professional engagement, but ultimately never set eyes on the plan itself.

Instead we might look at engaging with learners at a meta-level – especially for the purposes of assessment. Under a meta-PDP approach, engagement is around the value of learning, the implications of choices, the challenges of planning, learning about ourselves through reflections on development and developing an appreciation of personal development.  The ‘doing’ level still exists, but remains the domain of the learner. The object of learning in the public or group domain can, without imposition, be the meta-learning aspects.

I am reminded of the need for change amongst HE institutions and practitioners to support learners in highly personalised approaches to PDP, by a useful article from Peters & Tymms, who conclude PDP should ‘not be defined or controlled by the educational provider but remain free to be defined by the learner. To do this will inevitably demand change, not from the student, but from Higher Education providers and practitioners. Ultimately, the key for PDP’s success may yet lie in the term itself – it’s personal’.