Do you use a Professional Development Plan?

In my time teaching I’ve had some pretty pointless CPD and Performance Management Reviews. Quite a lot of that was down to my lack of preparation and understanding of what I needed to develop. Not having a clear idea in my head of my strengths, areas of development and where I wanted to go was a major contributing factor to having my line manager getting me to do things that weren’t going to develop me as teacher, assist the school or get me to where I wanted to be. After reading Chris Moyse’s very first blog post last year about how Professional Development was carried out at his school and the Professional Development Plan, I decided to investigate it further and develop one myself as my school doesn’t have one in place. I also shared it with my department to help them take ownership of their Performance Management Review process, so it would be a worthwhile experience for them. Whilst they found it time consuming they found that the whole process become much more beneficial and focused about them. With PMR’s coming up at my school soon my department has refined the process that we used and I thought I would share it in case its beneficial for you.


What is a Professional Development Plan?

A PDP is just another name for a plan of action, only this one refers specifically to your aspirations regarding personal and professional development. We make plans every day, but do not write them down. A PDP allows you to establish and set out your own personal targets and find the best way to achieve them.

Should I have one?

An action plan will help you visualise what you are doing and keep on track of your achievements. To be totally effective, it must be a fluid document that is reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that it is always accurate, relevant and realistic. Where possible it should be aligned to the other processes you use, such as you PMR (or PRP) and to enhance your development. To improve your performance it ought to be shared with others, i.e. your line manager, mentor or coach.

Can I write one to reflect my own aspirations?

Any layout for a PDP is acceptable, provided it satisfies the principles outlined. You probably want to give yourself plenty of time to consider the various factors that will affect your future decisions and lets be honest, time is a rare commodity within teaching. However, to produce a meaningful PDP it is crucial you make time for your own personal development, if not others will take control of that process.

After going through the following questions, it is always helpful to talk through your answers with someone else and get feedback. The questions aim to promote thought and consideration of the direction that you want to go in and the methods that you want to use. They also take into account your own personal circumstances before you decide on a course of action.

The best way to develop a PDP is to take time analysing what information you have and considering if you need more, and then interpreting what it means before trying to decide what to do with it in order to get you where you want to go.

Getting Started – Constructing a PDP

To begin with you need to consider the following things:

  • Where am I now?
  • Where do I want to be?
  • How do I get there?

Where am I now?

Firstly you will need to decide what your current situation is. You may find it useful to consider the following:

What am I good at?

What do I need to work on?

What could help me along?

What might stop me?

Consider the following example and then repeat it to reflect your own circumstances.

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 19.43.45



Where do I want to be?

This is the most exciting but also the most difficult stage to define. Only you can answer this question, but be aware that there are many factors to consider when finding the solution. You may find the following questions provoke thought in many areas:

What do you like doing? In my job, as a person

What is my motive for developing? Promotion, personal improvement, personal interest, overcome a difficulty

What qualifications and/or experience do I already have? Some may be transferable and others need to be acquired

How much time do I have to achieve my goals? Be realistic, development takes time

What effect might this have on my personal life? Consider commitments you already have and the cost

Are there any imminent changes to my lifestyle? Marriage, Children, Promotion

What will happen if I love school? Can you continue with your development anywhere

What is my ultimate goal? A qualification, personal fulfilment, career development

How will I measure mu success? Improved performance, recognised qualification, meeting targets, personal goals

Where can I get help an advice? Line manager, colleague, partner, coach, mentor, twitter

In considering all the factors that matter to you, you will also have started to assess what might be your future goals. This may be one single goal, or many similar goals that will make up the final outcome you aspire to. If you are not already doing this then you should discuss them with someone to see if they think they are realistic.

How can I get there?

You have now identified your development gap. The question of ‘how can i get there?’ can be answered by splitting your task into ‘bite-sized pieces’. i.e. objectives. This is a good way to plan effectively without sight of your overall aim, and will motivate you to continue as you reach each millstone on your way to completing and achieving the final outcomes you have set for yourself.

Getting Started – Keeping Going

The best way to organise your development is to set short, medium and long term objectives. Always remember, short, medium and long are all relative terms and will mean different things to different people. For example, some parts of your plan may only last over a year period, others may last 3 to 5 years, and it all depends on you and your circumstance.

It is also important to remember that these short, medium and long term objectives are fluid and must be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure they are still relevant. If your plans change, that is not a problem, just follow the basic principles and continually ask yourself the main questions:

Where am I now?

Where do I want to be?

How do I get there?

The trick at this point is to regard your PDP, or one you have constructed after a spell of neglect, as the start of the journey, not an end in its self.

Once you have undertaken all the hard work keep revising your PDP, find time to go back around the steps of the planning model especially as you start to evaluate ‘what actually happened, why and what am I taking from the action I undertook.’

To underpin your plan and to make the most effective use of your time it is also advisable to employ some type of process, such as a diary, a personal journal or a learning log, which is what I use. This will ensure you record key issues, events and any impact they have had on you or others as you go along, so you can reflect upon them later with the aim of surfacing your key learning points.

Your plan will then remain an effective tool in support of

  • your personal and professional goals
  • improving your own performance
  • potentially improving the performance of others and your organisation
  • your ability to try and secure any future opportunities you may wish to take

Obviously your school will have aims and targets that they will want you to achieve, but you should be the driver of your own professional development as it is your career after all. By all means take on other peoples advice and seek your colleagues views on your strengths and areas to develop. However in the end your professional development is personal. By not planning for it you may allow someone else to take control of it and take you down a path you do not want to go. The old training maxim still remains relevant ‘failing to plan is planning to fail.’ Best of luck.



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