The role of Personal Development Planning (PDP) for employer sponsored students - an exploration of how PDP learning activities can support CPD and workforce development requirements

Julie Savory


Over the past decade government policy has emphasised the need for effective and active partnerships between employers and higher education providers (DfES, 2003; Wedgewood, 2007; CBI, 2008; BIS, 2009) to meet the requirements of a globalised knowledge economy. This paper discusses the findings from a research project undertaken at the University of Salford which sought to explore how:

  • Personal Development Planning (PDP) input can support the development of employability skills for part-time sponsored students.
  • Employer engagement could be drawn upon to enhance such provision.

Informed by the Appreciative Inquiry approach (Cooperrider 1986, cited Reed, 2007), the methodology included a questionnaire survey of two student cohorts and thirteen semi-structured interviews with organisational development managers from sponsoring organisations to explore perceptions of the value of PDP within day release provision and potential benefits to the organisation. A follow up focus group with employers explored further staff development needs and the potential for PDP processes within Higher Education (HE) courses to complement their existing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and in-house staff and workforce development strategies.
Savory, Conroy and Berwick The role of Personal Development Planning (PDP) for employer sponsored students
The paper concludes that dialogue between academic staff, students and sponsoring employers is valuable in developing shared understandings of the role of PDP activities within HE curriculum, the potential benefits for individual professional development and the workforce development requirements of organisations. Employers participating in the research stressed the importance of 'functioning knowledge' (Biggs 2003, cited Walsh, 2008) and discussions highlighted the potential for PDP to provide a bridge between the discipline specific knowledge which forms the main focus of HE courses and the trans-disciplinary knowledge produced by the largely informal learning that occurs during the course of professional practice (Gibbons et al., 1964). The joint dialogue enabled exploration of perceptions of the difference between CPD and PDP and identification of how links between PDP and appraisal processes in the workplace could be strengthened, including suggestions for practical activities which could be incorporated into HE programmes and employers' performance review processes.


Personal Development Planning (PDP); Continuous Professional Development (CPD); workforce development; functioning knowledge; mode 2 knowledge; Appreciative Inquiry

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ISSN: 1759-667X