Personal Learning Plans Research Papers

As students work to complete high school and prepare for their eventual careers, many states and school districts are turning to Individual Learning Plans to help students build a clear pathway to achieve their education and life goals. ILPs, personalized plans developed collaboratively by students and school personnel, set goals that help students focus on their academic and career futures and keep them on track.

To help school districts and states prepare students for success by using ILPs, Hobsons has partnered with The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) to prepare a research to practice brief, Individual Learning Plans for College and Career Readiness: State Policies and School-Based Practices. This brief is an expansion upon the national research study NACAC conducted last year in collaboration with Hobsons.  

This national ILP study and new supporting documents, including a PowerPoint deck that can be incorporated into presentations, are available for public use.

To learn more, download the resources here: 

Individual Learning Plans (ILPs) are designed to encourage learners to reflect on where they are ‘now’, set goals and reflect on their progress (QIA, 20081 ). Each stage of this process requires the student to think analytically about their learning journey so it may be advisable to discuss how one does this before engaging students in writing their ILP. Some key questions could be asked such as:

  • What makes an effective learner? What sorts of skills and attributes do they reflect?
  • How is undergraduate or postgraduate study different from your previous studies?
  • How do you think second (or third) year work will differ from first (or second) year work?
  • In your previous studies what were your strengths and what did you struggle with?

The ILP is a good tool to establish a ‘professional’ learner identity amongst students, reinforcing the student attributes aspired to in the wider strategic plan for the university.

Before starting the ILP it may be useful to discuss with the students their past experiences completing ILPs (or records of learning/achievement). Some learners will have had a positive experience and will recognise the importance of this activity to reflect, problem solve, set targets and inform one-to-one discussions with tutors. Others may have had more negative experiences and could very well be experiencing ‘ILP fatigue’. It may be worth discussing the fact that taking ownership of one's learning (independent learning) is vital at university and the way in which the ILP can help scaffold this early on.

ILPs do not necessarily have to be that detailed as it is how they are used to inform discussion and future review that is of most importance (excellencegateway.org.uk2 ). However, do encourage students to ‘probe’ what they have written before they discuss the ILP with you in person. For example:

Student writes : Target: To achieve 63% or more in my next assignment

Discussing with the student how they are going to do this and why they failed to achieve 63% or more in their last assignment is very important. In this respect setting SMART targets (specific, attainable, measurable, realistic, timely) could be useful –

I need to work on my essay structure. I will do this by attending some study skills workshops and reading model essays in the library. This needs to be done before the Christmas break when I will be writing the next assignment……

These individual learning plan templates have been produced in consultation with colleagues teaching Level 3 learners, so are designed with transition to HE particularly in mind. They are examples which can be used and adapted for use at all levels, to support ILP at three stages in the student life-cycle in year 1 (arrival, January and pre-exam [spring]).

1http://archive.excellencegateway.org.uk/pdf/4.2sflguidance_4.pdf [accessed 8/5/13

2http://archive.excellencegateway.org.uk/page.aspx?o=108289 [accessed 8/5/13]

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