3 Planning your development

A personal or professional development plan (PDP) is a carefully planned document that highlights the key areas that you have identified for development in any planning cycle.

The PDP process involves:

  • assessing your current skills, competencies and ambition
  • identifying your need for skills, knowledge or competencies
  • establishing aims and objectives – what you want to achieve in the short, medium or long term as a school leader
  • selecting appropriate training and development activities to meet those perceived needs in order to help you reach your goal(s).

In many schools and other organisations, this process is tied into an appraisal system where you have the opportunity to discuss your development needs with your manager. Your manager may have an important role in the process because they control access to the resources that may support your plan. In case there is a need for you to prepare for an appraisal, you should:

  • reflect on your skills and practice
  • review your performance and capabilities
  • draw up an action plan (with specific goals and/or objectives) to ensure that you are successful.

Having a good PDP and acting on it helps to ensure that you are developing and maintaining your professional competency. It is essential for you to keep up to date in this rapidly changing environment. You need to ensure that your students have appropriate skills and knowledge to advance as active productive citizens. For this reason, technology is often cited by leaders as an area they would like to develop knowledge and skills.

The following points outline the PDP process:

  1. Establish where you are up to and clearly define your aspirations: The purpose of any development activity needs to be identified. You can do this either by yourself or with the help of your manager, mentor, colleagues or friends. This involves:
    • gaining a measure of what you are good at and interested in
    • taking into account the organisational (school) realities, as well as any potential challenges
    • ensuring that your plans will meet the needs of your school.
  2. Identify development needs: Identifying your development needs may emerge from your tasks or responsibilities, discussions with your manager or colleagues, changes in the needs of your school, teachers and/or students, or through some formal appraisal process. Various tools, such as self-assessment tests, may be available to help you assess your skills in a structured way. Most of your development needs will be associated with your current duties and responsibilities, although it is always worth considering any development you may require to prepare you for a promotion.
  3. Identify learning opportunities: As a result of one, or several, of the assessment processes above, draw up a list of the skills or knowledge you need to acquire, update or improve. Compare this list with your current skills and knowledge base, and identify any gaps.
  4. Formulate an action plan: For each of the skills and knowledge gaps you identify, set yourself development objectives. There must be an element of challenge in them so that they stretch your abilities. But they must also be attainable and viable within a realistic time frame.
  5. Undertake the development: Put your plan into action once you have discussed it with the key functionaries at local education authorities. What you do and how you do it should be your choice. In addition to training courses, options include work shadowing (following another school leader in their daily routine), a secondment (a formal arrangement to take on another role with the purpose of learning new skills), project work, networking and community involvement.
  6. Record the outcomes: Keeping records serves to remind you – and others, such as the local education authorities – what you have done. Most importantly, your records will help you to focus on what you have got out of your development activity. Record the date, the development need identified, the chosen method of meeting those needs, the date(s) when PDP was undertaken, the outcomes, and any further action needed.
  7. Monitor, evaluate and review: Evaluation is a key stage in the self-development cycle. There are two issues that you should reflect upon: whether the development activity you have undertaken was appropriate, and whether and how your skills or working behaviour have improved as a result.

Activity 3: Starting your own PDP process

Using the PDP process outlined above, work through the first three points yourself. Make notes in your Learning Diary of where you are in your career and clearly define your aspirations. Then identify your development needs and what opportunities there are to gain knowledge and learn new skills.

This will probably be the first time that you have done this, so it may not be easy. You need to be honest and perceptive, to accurately assess your development needs; and creative, to think about how they might be met. It is useful to discuss this with others who may be able to offer you insights and perspectives that inform your PDP.

Continuing professional development

Continuing professional development (CPD) refers to the means by which people maintain and upgrade their professional knowledge, practice and skills. In some professions elsewhere in the world, it has become compulsory to declare a number of hours of CPD annually in order to renew a licence to practice. These licences have been put in place to ensure that people remain competent post-qualification. Having a good PDP and acting on it helps to ensure that you are developing and maintaining your professional competency.

In India, the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) and District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) provide this type of support for teachers and school leaders through a wide range of training programmes. More recently, the National Centre for School Leadership (NCSL), located in the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, has focused on developing the capacities of school leaders across the country, on a long-term and continuous basis, in order to prepare school leaders for transforming schools into centres of excellence.

According to the National Council for Teacher Education (2009), the broad aims for a CPD programme for teachers are to:

  • explore, reflect and develop one’s own practice
  • deepen one’s knowledge of and update oneself about one’s academic discipline or other areas of school curriculum
  • research and reflect on learners and their education
  • understand and update oneself on educational and social issues
  • prepare for other roles professionally linked to education and teaching, such as teacher education, curriculum development or counselling
  • break out of intellectual isolation and share experiences and insights with others in the field – with teachers and academics working in specific disciplines, as well as intellectuals in the immediate, wider society.

These broad aims inform the in-service training and development strategies implemented by the DIETs. As a school leader, these aims may not necessarily meet all your needs. It is therefore important that you are self-conscious and critical about your practice and take proactive action to develop yourself.

Activity 4: Identifying your development needs

In your Learning Diary, identify three areas that you wish to develop over the next year and state what you could do to make sure it happens. This moves you into the action-plan stage of the PDP process. You can use Resource 1 at the end of this unit. Do not fine-tune your notes at this stage, as there follows more specific guidance on writing objectives.

4 Setting SMART objectives