We use standard forms to help the learners follow a systematic process to prepare their learning contracts, individual development plans, or learning project management strategies. Here is what should be included in a personal learning plan:
Assessment: First, identify your current skills, knowledge, abilities, and interests. A previous article in this series (5) describes the needs assessment process.
Goals: Identify the new skills, knowledge, and experiences you would like to acquire and have. Do these goals match your personal and career interests? Are your goals in agreement with your organization’s goals, mission and vision?
Learning purpose: Identify the gap between the current situation and the desired outcome. This will produce a statement of purpose that should clarify why you want to learn something, and what specific skills, knowledge and abilities you wish to develop.
Learning objective(s): Identify what skills, knowledge, and abilities are to be acquired or enhanced. Remember that this is only a plan, not a rigid promise; your plan can and should be revised as your goals change and as learning occurs.
For each objective, identify the following:
Target date: Identify when you plan to complete the work for this part of your learning plan.
Learning strategies: Describe how you plan to do it, and what process you plan to follow to accomplish your objective. For example, strategies could include: reading and study, interviews and discussions with appropriate people, mill trials, networking and communication, reflecting on your own experiences, classroom study, literature review, synthesizing and writing.
Learning resources: Identify what resources you plan to use to help you with this learning process. These resources might include, for example: literature, mentors, co- workers, other professionals for networking, vendors or suppliers, classes, technical conferences, professional association involvement, equipment manuals, laboratory trials, production workers, teachers and instructors, field experience, your supervisors, and a variety of learning technologies including computers, the Internet, and perhaps even your mill’s DCS (digital control system).
Outcomes and product: List the evidence you will develop to show the accomplishment of your objectives. What deliverables will you have produced by this process? What objects can be used to validate your learning experience? This could include, for example, a log or journal of your studies or observations, a literature review and bibliography, written and oral reports, lists of questions, obtaining specific career objectives, and more.
Evaluation plan: Describe the method you will use to validate your deliverables and to evaluate the success of your learning project. In other words, what criteria and means will you use to determine if you were successful in reaching your learning goals?
Initial feedback and revision: Before starting to carry-out your individual development plan, confer with your supervisor (instructor, mentor, or HRD-manager if available) for feedback, for another view of your learning needs and strategies. This will help insure that your learning will not only be based on your personal needs but will also be relevant to your organization’s goals, results, and profitability. The more independent sources you can use, the better seek additional feedback from your co-workers, colleagues, family and friends.
Summary of results: After completing the projects in your individual plan, you should evaluate the success of these activities. What insights have you gained? What new understandings do you have? What new skills, abilities and knowledge have you acquired? What experiences did you have, and what did you learn from them? How do you feel about this process?
Next steps: You should review the accomplishments and successes of this project with your supervisor (and others, as appropriate). Then update your learning plan for the next cycle. Remember that learning and growth are processes that may, and should, continue indefinitely.