Introduction to the Professional Development Plan (PDP)

Purpose of the Professional Development Plan

Students conceptualize a personalized blueprint for approaching their Walden doctoral studies and present it in a written Professional Development Plan (PDP or essay). Writing the essay allows students the opportunity to

  • Reflect on their personal history, professional accomplishments, and future aspirations;
  • Initiate a discussion with faculty about graduate study in general and the Walden program in particular;
  • Articulate academic interests and set goals for their Walden educational experience;
  • Iidentify themes for each KAM that support those interests and goals; and
  • Establish a personalized timeline for meeting degree requirements (i.e., the Program of Study form).

Students develop the PDP in close consultation with their Foundation course instructor/faculty mentor, who will review and approve the final document. (The Program of Study form is ultimately approved by the student's faculty chair.) Students are urged to review their PDP with their faculty mentor on an annual basis to assess their progress and growth. Students learn more about the PDP in the online Foundation course.

Content and Structure of the Professional Development Plan

Although a general outline is provided for the content and structure of the PDP, students are encouraged to write an essay that reflects their individual experience, achievements, and goals. Students write the essay in the first person and include their thoughts on how the plan relates to their chosen field of study. The PDP consists of 3 parts:

  • Part I: A description of personal and professional goals.
  • Part II: A description of educational background and research proficiency.
  • Part III: An individualized plan for approaching the Walden program (Plan of Study) and completion of the Program of Study form.
  • Part I: Personal and Professional Goals
In this section, students write a brief personal introduction, state their personal and professional goals, and articulate how these goals intersect with their academic interests and selected field of study. Students reflect upon the mission of the university: "Walden University provides a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they may transform society." Students discuss how specialized learning and the attainment of a doctoral degree will help them meet their career and personal life goals.

Part II: Educational Background and Research Proficiency

When developing this section, students reflect on the formal and informal learning experiences that compose their educational background and discuss how these experiences support the direction of study established in Part I. Walden encourages students to include individual knowledge, skills, and accomplishments. Students explain the academic and research proficiencies they bring to the program and identify areas to improve while a Walden student. Students are expected to evaluate honestly their readiness to engage in dissertation research.

Categories for students to consider when writing this section include the following:

  • Academic coursework in the social and behavioral sciences.
  • Academic coursework in other fields.
  • Professional presentations, seminars, and workshops.
  • Volunteer activities.
  • Prior experience designing and executing research.
  • Publications and other writing experiences.
  • Teaching assignments.
  • Professional training.
  • Academic strengths and weaknesses.
  • Research strengths and weaknesses.
  • Availability of library, reference, and information technology resources.
Students should be clear about plans for preparing themselves for doctoral study, particularly if gaps exist in their background.

Part III: Plan of Study and Program of Study Form

Part III includes an individualized Plan of Study for approaching the Walden program and a formal Program of Study form. For students in the School of Psychology and students in the Ph.D. in Public Health program, Part III of the PDP is the Program of Study form only.

For students in the schools or colleges of education, health and human services, (Ph.D. in Health Services or Ph.D. in Human Services), and management, Part III begins with a summary of their overall learning goals as they relate to their intended field of study. This summary is followed by the Plan of Study, which contains a brief explanation (usually one paragraph per KAM) of the academic topics and professional issues to be explored in each KAM demonstration. Students should consult their curriculum guide and Foundation course instructor when developing these topics.

Students in KAM or KAM-/course-based programs who elect the Self-Designed specialization should complete the Program of Study form using the General Program course numbers for the breadth, depth, and application components of each KAM. The depth and application components should include a subtitle that reflects the focus of the student's own unique self-designed specialization. In the specialized KAMs, generally V, VI, and VII, the titles of the breadth component must also reflect the unique self-designed specialization.

Part III also includes a Program of Study form, a formal document based on the academic evaluation made available to the student from the Office of Admissions, and showing any transferred credit. In consultation with their Foundation course instructor, students use this exercise to create an individualized plan for completing all degree requirements within a specific time frame.

The university suggests that students approach the task of program planning by grouping degree requirements into stages of progress. Students are encouraged to target a completion date and work backward, identifying specific milestones of academic progress and time frames for their completion.

In developing a timeline, students must account for review, revision, and approval of academic work. For most students, academic work is not approved with the first draft. Students should familiarize themselves with the approval processes for academic work, in particular those for Learning Agreements and KAMs, and incorporate flexibility in their timeline. Students use the Program of Study form to gauge their progress toward degree completion. Major revisions to the form require the approval of the faculty advisor/mentor and faculty chair.

Professional Development Plan Approval Process

Students submit the completed PDP to their Foundation course instructors electronically. Should a plan require revision, the course instructor returns it to the student with comments and feedback. When satisfied the plan meets the university's expectations, the course instructor forwards the PDP and the Program of Study form to the program's academic advisors for initial review. He or she then forwards the PDP and the Program of Study form to the appropriate faculty chair for review.

The faculty chair may return the plan to the student and course instructor for revisions or approve it. Following approval by the faculty chair, the PDP is ratified in the Office of the Registrar.

Criteria for Professional Development Plan Approval

A Professional Development Plan will be considered for approval when all of the following criteria have been met:

  • The PDP is well written and follows The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.  (The use of the first person is permissible.)
  • The content corresponds to the curriculum requirements of the university and the selected doctoral program, and to the student's specialization, if applicable.
  • The content corresponds to the student's educational background and goals.
  • The student has gained access to the necessary resources and exhibits the traits of an independent learner.
  • The Plan of Study and the Program of Study form are complete