Many degrees are concerned with the development and assessment of knowledge and abilities for vocational as well as academic learning. Developing the skill of reflective practice is a fundamental element of being a professional. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) in their publication Guidelines for HE Progress Files (2001:8) define Professional Development Planning 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’. There is a drive to include PDP in all degree programmes. It is therefore highly relevant for those of you who are learning at the same time as working, as it is intended to help you to: I
become a more effective, independent and confident self-directed learner; understand how you are learning, and relate your learning to a wider context; improve your general skills for career and study management; articulate your personal goals and evaluate progress towards their achievement; and encourage a positive attitude to learning throughout life.
This chapter covers:
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reflective writing Personal Development Planning (PDP) producing a Professional Development Portfolio
Study Skills for Part-time Students
Reflective writing provides an opportunity for you to think critically about past events and your own learning journey. We are told by our new degree students that they often find this a difficult task, as it is different from other forms of writing they have done before. Reflective writing offers the opportunity for you to challenge yourself about what you do. It also gives you the objectivity to do things differently and better, without seeing problems as a result of personal inadequacy. Keeping a reflective journal is challenging, but can help you to develop a scholarly approach to your practice and to learning. This is an essential feature both for being effective as a workplace professional and for studying for your degree.
Setting the parameters
As we suggested above, when used effectively, reflective writing will support you in making personal sense of a diverse set of experiences. This is particularly important if learning is to be incorporated into everyday practice as it is in the workplace. However, because you are writing about your personal experiences, there are some ground rules and boundaries that need to be set at the beginning of the process. In all cases, before you start to write you will need to know who will see your reflective journal, and if it will be assessed as part of your qualification.
ACTIVITY 1 Before you begin
Check that you have the answers to the following questions before you start your journal: I
Is the journal part of my assessed work? If so, what are the assessment criteria? Is there a word limit? Who will see this writing? Will this work be seen by a second marker or the external examiner, or is it just for me? Is it acceptable to present handwritten work? If you use a standard diary it is likely your entries will be handwritten unless you have a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) or use a package like Microsoft Outlook®. What guidelines are there for content? As you are employed and studying, is there a balance to be struck between reflection on your academic and workplace learning?
In the literature regarding reflective practice, the work of Donald Schön (1983) is most often cited. He writes about reflection having two key components: ‘reflection on action’, a retrospective activity looking back after any particular event or task, and evaluating current skills, competencies, knowledge and professional practice. ‘Reflection in action’, a more dynamic process which takes place during the task or event, and which helps to 18
Personal Development Planning
improve performance by adjusting what we do. What you might term...