May 06, 2005

On PDP

One of the goals we had for WB was that it would be a tool (but not the only tool) that could help people who wanted to engage in some kind of personal development activities. Now that blogs have been running for a while, there are some mildly interesting things we can say about its use for PDP:-

  1. The PDP activities which take place within blogs aren't highly visible. It's tempting to assume that if you can't see any PDP posts, then PDP isn't happening, but that argument is flawed, I think: PDP posts by their nature are often restricted to small groups such as Contributors or Me&MyTutor or My Module, or they're marked as "Show just on my blog". In the last four weeks, for example, there have been over fifty posts in the PDP category or a PDP-related category, and over 95% of them have been invisible to most readers. Is that a good number? It's hard to be definitive about that, although my personal view is that it's much better than I would have expected. But at any rate, it's not zero.

  2. There's an interesting question about how broadly you choose to define PDP: a narrow definition might be something like "Reflection about my course or my studies or my career aspirations". But a wide definition might be more like "Helping me understand or come to terms with things which have happened, or helping me work out what to do in the future." Obviously there's lots of room for debate about what kind of definition you favour, but equally, your view of the success of a blogging tool in supporting PDP depends on the definition you find credible.

  3. We've always expected that the use of blogs to support PDP (and learning/research activities) would take much, much longer to emerge than the use of blogs for social or personal publishing. WB has been live for just seven months now, but we're thinking more in terms of several years before we can judge whether or not it's a useful tool for these sorts of activities. Our research and evaluation work starts from the assumption that people are more likely to use blogs socially and personally before they decide to use it for other purposes, and the interviews that we've done so far, and the studies that we've commissioned are also beginning to bear this out.

So the future is, as always, uncertain. But the evidence, I think, supports a cautious degree of optimism.


- 4 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Thanks for those stats John, it clarifies what I have suspected re: under the surface blogging and the unseen use of the WB system.

    I also agree that WB is a wider reflective tool – taking a broader definition of PDP. After all, the learning experience of University is not just what happens in the lectures and seminars.

    06 May 2005, 10:17

  2. The definition of PDP which I have seen most frequently is

    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.'

    – as defined by the QAA which is, after all, what this is really about.

    I think they've got it about right – without structure, where on the continuum between chatting about a film, and at the other end reflection about progress and aspirations, does PDP begin? Reflection is only the first step in PDP - the much harder bit (for me, at least) is translating that reflection into some constructive actions which will lead toward some long term goal.

    Most of the technology to enable this is already present in WB - follow ups, categorisation, privacy control. I don't see why a period of years should alter the usage of this system, unless some external driver is applied to users, to persuede us to do different things here?

    A couple of random ideas that have just come to me:

    • Some pro-forma blog entry types, for self-assessment of individual modules/courses?
    • After a meeting with a careers adviser, the record of the meeting (as stored in their shiny new CASIGMA thing), along with referrals and notes, could be magically transferred to the student's blog as a private entry?

    07 May 2005, 00:02

  3. Robert O'Toole

    We've already started experimenting with blog forms for recording and reflecting on module activities and progress.

    As for careers, this was suggested several months ago when i did a presentation to them, but i'm not sure what is happening with the idea.

    07 May 2005, 21:50

  4. Robert O'Toole

    As for the cultural change that is required, that's something that we realy don't understand very well. There are lots of complex factors, not the least of which is the dramatic change in student backgrounds and expectations that may be currently happening. Combine that with the seemingly unpredictable reaction of the diverse range of lecturers.

    07 May 2005, 21:54


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