Personal Development Plan

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Personal Development Plan allows a student to know his weaknesses and try to overcome them the best he could. With a self-evaluation of a wide variety of skills, a student can also realize his missing skills and improve his existing traits. In this report, major vital skills are included and my personal skills are also evaluated, followed by creating an effective personal development plan.

There are mainly five key skills every student should master to be successful. It is important for a student to realise his strengths and weakness, and generate a plan to improve himself in any skills in order to be successful.

By attempting this report, I realise the importance of creating a personal development plan while auditing my own skills to find my weaknesses and think ways to improve them.

2. Introduction

Realisation of one's strengths and weaknesses are not commonly practiced, especially students. By realising this, a student can find ways and strategies to improve himself. One of the most effective ways is through production of a personal development plan, and self-evaluation of skills.

This report will cover and discuss a few fundamental skills every student should master in order to be successful not only in universities, but also in working society and everyday life. It will also include my own developed personal development plan and skills audit, while identifying my skills gaps and creating action plans to achieve my desired state.

3. The Key Skills

Key skills are the main skills each student should master. There are five essential key skills, namely:

Communication

Time Management & Organisation

Problem Solving

Improve Learning & Performance

Working with Others

3.1 Communication

"Communication refers to the exchange of thoughts and ideas with the intention of conveying information."

"The purpose of communication is to convey one's beliefs, ideas, thoughts or needs with clarity so as to reach a consensus or a mutually acceptable solution."

Quoted by Aparna Iyer

Communication is one of the fundamental skills that are needed to be a successful student. Every student need to be able to communicate at all levels, while developing a logical argument and taking account of the audience or reader. This skill also includes effective, concise and accurate writing. Students should be able to communicate clearly and smoothly with lecturers and colleagues, verbally or written, i.e. having good verbal and writing skills.

A student with good communication skills should be able to:

Analyse assignments to identify what is required or expected

Students are expected to be able to analyse assignments given and determine what is expected by the lecturer. Failing in analysing assignments causes that student to complete the assignment with points 'out of topic'.

Understand the difference between an essay and report

Emphasised in by Andrew Thorn's Lecture on 21st October 2010, essay is a continual piece of work, normally required on analysing and evaluating theory and past research carried out by others, while a report is generally provides an account of something or to offer solution to a problem.1 Writing an essay when a report is required, or vice versa can result in huge penalisation of marks for that particular assignment.

Punctuate, spell correctly and use correct grammars

Regardless what language is spoken or written, it is vital to have good grammar, spelling and punctuating skills. By having high level in this skill, accurate and meaningful information can be easily conveyed to the audience.

Confident in expressing views and ideas, both written and verbally

By being unsure about expressing views, there is a probability that that view is in fact excellent, but was not presented in any way and wasted. Even if the view was bad, one can learn from it, rather than keeping it away.

Understand the need of reference to avoid plagiarism

"Plagiarism is not a legal offence; it is an academic offence"

Higher Education Academy-ICS hosted at University of Ulster in collaboration with Loughborough University

It is important to understand the need of referencing to avoid plagiarism. Work done must be original, and reference should be made wherever required.

Confident in speaking in front of group of people

Speaking confidently gives a positive impression of the student. The audience would also have more confidence in what was being delivered.

Able to listen and appreciate the views or opinions of others

Listening is as important as speaking. A student must also appreciate the views of others, taking into consideration was said. It is essential for bonding and two-way communication among colleagues and lecturers.

Confident in teaching a colleague or a group

Being confident in teaching not only allows the audience to learn better, but it also boosts the confidence of the teaching student in a particular subject while realising mistakes he might have missed.

Fluent in languages

It is crucial to be fluent in English, as it is the most widely spoken language. Not having fluency in this language limits opportunities to a student. Being fluent in multiple languages is also one of the best advantages not only during study, but also at work. Knowing multiple languages allows communication to a wider range of people.

3.2 Time Management and Organisation

"Time = Life; Therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life."

Quoted by Alan Lakein

Time is scarce and limited. Students often complain about 'lack of time' and 'much to do'. In fact, everyone share the same number of hours per day. The only reason for this problem, in most cases, is due to the lack of time management and organisation. The figure below (Figure 1.0) is a famous rule introduced by Joseph M. Juran (1941).

Figure 1.0 - The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle states that typically 80% of unfocussed effort generates only 20% of results while the remaining 80% of results are achieved with only 20% of the effort. This broad pattern of a small proportion of activity generating non-scalar returns recurs so frequently that it is the norm in many situations.2

A student with good time management and organisation skills should be able to:

Have effective strategies to aid in planning and time management

Making schedules while considering time and place is one effective strategy to manage time. Without these considerations, or even plans, a student would rush to do everything in unsuitable places. This causes building up of stress, which causes a negative impact on that student.

Able to prioritise tasks and personal activities

To prioritise is to discriminate between levels of importance. Without prioritising tasks and personal activities, a student would develop pressure and tends to rush to complete the given assignment when deadline draws near. By prioritising, a student could also manage multi-tasking, which saves up a lot of time for other activities.

Understand and work to deadlines

Crossing datelines usually lead to penalty of marks in most universities. This causes valuable and potential marks to be lost. In the working society, one might lose a potential client who would never come again.

Attend classes and tutorials regularly

Attending classes and being punctual shares the same importance. By being late, introduction to a new topic may be missed and that student would have lack of understanding for the remaining of the lesson.

Aware of personal stress and able to handle it

Stress is common among unorganised students. Aware and coping with it is crucial in maintaining a positive attitude.

3.3 Problem Solving

"Why is it important to learn problem-solving skills? Because we all have to make decisions. Whether you're a student, a parent, a businessperson, or the president of the United States, you face problems every day that need solving. Maybe you're trying to save your company, keep your job, or end the world financial crisis. Maybe you simply need to eat better or find more time to spend with your family."

Quoted by Ken Watanabe

Problem-solving is being able to solve problems, literally. A student is able to anticipate where problems could arise and logically work through the problem to find a satisfactory conclusion. In order words, problem-solving is to analyse, critique and synthesise information in order to solve problems, ranging from simple to complex.

Figure 2.0 - Problem Solving Process

The above diagram illustrates the common problem-solving process. A true problem-solving process begins from 'Define', and cycles through the blue and red arrows several times before reaching for the 'Goal' via the black arrow.3

Generally, problem-solving requires mainly logic and common sense. Students lacking in these traits result in having poor problem-solving skill.

A student with good problem-solving skills should be able to:

Solve calculations and present numerical information accurately

A student should be able to be competent in making simple calculations, use variety of numerical techniques (such as percentage, decimals, etc.) and present these information accurately.

Analyse and breakdown problems

A student with good problem-solving skills should be able to analyse and breakdown complex problems into simpler bits, and solve logically. Analysing is the vital as it is the first step in any problem-solving.

Making reasonable and smart decisions

Decisions determine the future of a student. Deciding what the best is promises a student the best future, and best decisions are always reasonable.

Think creatively and critically

"Alternative solutions are often not given; they must be generated or thought-up. Critical thinkers must be creative thinkers as well, generating possible solutions in order to find the best one. Very often a problem persists, not because we can't tell which available solution is best, but because the best solution has not yet been made available - no one has thought of it yet."

Quoted by Richard Paul (1990)

A student should learn how to think creatively (generates idea) and critically (evaluates idea) to be a well-rounded productive thinker.

3.4 Improve Learning and Performance

"Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning."

Quoted by William A. Ward

Motivation and inspiration play a huge role in improving learning and performance of a student. A student has to have strong self-motivation skills to improve himself. One famous quote quotes "Winners never quit and quitters never win" (Vincent Thomas "Vince" Lombardi) suggests that anyone, including students, should never quit or give up, or they will never succeed. This applies to learning as well.

Students with good improve learning and performance skills should be able to:

Judge strengths and areas for development

Identify personal goals and opportunities

Understand own learning style

Howard Gardner (1983) proposed the theory of 'Multiple Intelligence'. Among few are interpersonal, linguistic and even musical. When a student know and understand his learning style, he can learn better and faster. Not knowing one's learning style results in slow learning.

Aware of support available

Aware of safety (be competent in working with any relevant health and safety regulations)

For a student to be able to develop himself, he needs to have:

Determination and diligence

Self-Discipline

Flexibility and open-minded

A student must be flexible and open-minded, accepting critics and making mistakes while learning from them.

Initiative, self-awareness, self-reliance and self-motivation

3.5 Working with Others

"Some things are easy to achieve by working on your own, but there will inevitably be times when you will have to work with other people to get a job done."

Quoted by BBC (2004)

Working with others has a lot of advantage over working alone. By doing so, a group of students can share their ideas and skills to complete a task more efficiently.

A student with good working with others skills should be able to:

Listen, discuss and negotiate

Listening to ideas, consider and discuss feedbacks and negotiation are important in working in a group. By doing so, every student in a group can learn and try other's ideas and complete a task with a wider range of ideas and methods.

Recognise impact of own behaviour on others

A student should be able to recognise his own behaviour to create a good relationship with other students. This enables a group to progress smoothly and professionally without any personal feelings.

Two important traits a student should have are:

Leadership

Leadership is an important function of management. Strong leadership helps to maximize efficiency and to achieve goals.

Teamwork

For a group of students to succeed the task in hand, every students involved need to combine their effort to increase what the group can accomplish.

4. Skill Audit

The figure below (Figure 3.0 - 7.0) shows the result of self-evaluation of skills.

Skill/Characteristic descriptor

Skill Rating*

Evidence

Communication Skills

Analyse assignments to identify what is required or expected

3.5

N/A

Understand the difference between an essay and report

4.0

Punctuate, spell correctly and use correct grammars

4.0

Confident in expressing views and ideas, both written and verbally

3.0

Understand the need of reference to avoid plagiarism

4.0

Confident in speaking in front of group of people

3.5

Participated as Chairman in and inter-class debate competition back in high school

Able to listen and appreciate the views or opinions of others

4.5

N/A

Confident in teaching a colleague or a group

4.0

Always approached by colleagues for aid back in college

Fluent in languages

3.5

Can speak acceptable English, Malay, Mandarin and Thai; Family Background

Average Skill Rating:

3.89

Figure 3.0 - Communication: Self-Evaluation

Skill/Characteristic descriptor

Skill Rating*

Evidence

Time Management and Organisation

Have effective strategies to aid in planning and time management

4.0

Possession of schedule with important dates (assignments deadline, exam dates, etc)

Able to prioritise tasks and personal activities

3.0

N/A

Understand and work to deadlines

5.0

Always submit assignments before deadline or on time

Attend classes and tutorials regularly

5.0

Never miss classes, unless on medical leave

Aware of personal stress and able to handle it

1.0

N/A

Average Skill Rating:

3.60

Figure 4.0 - Time Management and Organisation: Self-Evaluation

Skill/Characteristic descriptor

Skill Rating*

Evidence

Problem Solving

Solve calculations and present numerical information accurately

5.0

N/A

Analyse and breakdown problems

4.0

Making reasonable and smart decisions

3.0

Think creatively and critically

3.5

Average Skill Rating:

3.88

Figure 5.0 - Problem Solving: Self-Evaluation

Skill/Characteristic descriptor

Skill Rating*

Evidence

Improve Learning and Performance

Judge strengths and areas for development

3.5

N/A

Identify personal goals and opportunities

3.0

Understand own learning style

4.0

Aware if support available

2.0

Aware of safety

4.0

Determination and diligence

4.0

Self-Discipline

5.0

Flexibility and open-minded

5.0

Initiative, self-awareness, self-reliance and self-motivated

4.0

Average Skill Rating:

3.83

Figure 6.0 - Improve Learning and Performance: Self-Evaluation

Skill/Characteristic descriptor

Skill Rating*

Evidence

Working with Others

Listen, discuss and negotiate

3.0

N/A

Recognise impact of own behaviour on others

3.0

Leadership

3.5

Teamwork

4.0

Participated in many activities that requires strong teamwork back in college

Average Skill Rating:

3.38

Figure 7.0 - Working with Others: Self-Evaluation

* Skill ratings range from a scale of 0.0 to 5.0, where higher value represents higher confidence and skill in that trait. Ratings are usually in whole number, but any rating with division of 0.5 indicates a value between that rating rounded down and rounded up.

By looking at the figures below (Figure 8.0 and 9.0), it can be seen that I am quite balance in every skill. However, these figures do not show strengths and skills to be improved.

Figure 8.0 - Pie chart showing each skill's contribution to overall skills possessed

Skill

Rating Contribution

Communication

20.9%

Time Management and Organisation

19.4%

Problem Solving

20.9%

Improve Learning and Performance

20.6%

Working with Others

18.2%

Figure 9.0 - Table showing each skill's contribution to overall skills possessed

5. Personal Development Plan

Current Weakness

Desired State

Action to achieve

Evidence of completion

Duration or Dealine

Quiet and shy in expressing views and ideas verbally

To be confident in expressing views and ideas verbally

Overcome shyness and talk to colleagues and lecturers more frequently

Confidently speak and socialise with colleagues and lecturers.

Not afraid to ask questions

Not afraid to make mistake when presenting an idea

Throughout whole course

Disorganised and do not prioritise tasks

To prioritise tasks and personal activities

Make a list and mark on the weekly schedule used while prioritising each task and activity

Possession of a calendar or weekly schedule and a to-do list of tasks and activities with priority labels on them

Every day after each task or activity is planned/given. Check schedule before bed

Stress out easily from various situations

To be aware and able to deal with personal stress

Be more assertive

Focus on positive

Buy and read "How to cope with stress" by Peter Tyrer

More calm and positive

Buy the book by end of 2010. Read at least one hour each day in weekends.

Unable to make quick and smart decisions

To be able to make reasonable and smart decisions with confidence

Buy and read "Decision power: how to make successful decisions with confidence" by Harvey Kaye

Approach decisions and choices efficiently

Buy the book by end of 2010. Read at least one hour each day in weekends.

Need to improve on thinking skills

To think more creatively and critically

Play strategy games or puzzles that require creative and critical thinking

Read article on "Critical Thinking" by Richard W. Paul

Able to generate and evaluate unique and original ideas

At least one hour on weekdays, two hours on weekends.

Not aware of and utilising available support

To be aware of support from surrounding, colleagues and lecturers

Go to library more often

Raise awareness for available support

Socialise and strengthen bond with colleagues and lecturers

Seek and utilise support for whatever task is given

Throughout whole life

Rarely motivated, results in laziness

To be motivated to achieve better grades

Buy motivational posters and post on wall in room

Buy and read various motivational books

Being more motivated and spirited

Course grades improve

Buy books by end of 2010. Read at least one hour each day in weekends.

Figure 10.0 - Personal Development Plan, based on Skills Audited

6. Conclusion

Upon completing this report, I have learnt the need of making a personal development plan to improve myself in aspects of life. I managed to identify the few but vital skills a student should have in order to be successful. Through researches, I learnt a lot other skills too such as study and memorising skills.

By auditing my own skills, I not only identified the gaps in my skills, but also realised my strengths and the advantages that I have. This realisation builds up more confidence and opens up new paths for me to be a better and more successful student.

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