PADSHE Project - University of Nottingham

Conference 10 June 2003

Using the University's Self-assessment Exercise and Follow-up Reflective Activity as an introduction to Personal Development Planning

Facilitators: Sue Bloy, Student Learning Advisory Service
Dr Peter Taylor, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Laraine Ciupruk, First year student, MPharm, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
De Montfort University


Over the last four academic years, more than 11,500 new DMU undergraduates have undertaken a self-assessment of their confidence in key skills, during their first few weeks at the University.

Students work through a range of questionnaires and activities in the areas of communication, IT, numeracy, information skills and career management which help them to The activities are included in a handbook, together with information on sources of support for undergraduate study. While students keep the handbook as a personal record, they also transfer their self-assessed levels of confidence onto anonymous feedback and evaluation forms. Analysis of these, has provided the University with an overview by course, faculty and across the institution of the key skills which students are bringing with them, and the areas that they might need to develop further. This has informed the development of learning and teaching materials, such as the Focus On series, available on the DMU website at under the Student Learning Advisory Service.

Faculties are using the key skills self-assessment in a variety of ways to support students' skills and learning development, in particular during year 1. During the 2002/03 academic year, a pilot exercise was conducted in the inter-semester break, with around half of the first year undergraduates in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. Students reflected on their experience in the first semester of undergraduate study and, in the context of their own preferred learning styles, identified how they had met the challenges of HE and how they might plan to develop their approaches to study during the second semester.

The Workshop

The workshop provided an overview of the De Montfort University self-assessment exercise, and the pilot follow-up activity in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. Examples of materials developed at DMU were used to illustrate the approach being taken and participants were invited to consider how these might be used in their own institutions. Participants also worked through the VARK1 learning preferences questionnaire, which had been used with the first year Applied Sciences students. VARK is available on line at from where a shortened version can also be downloaded for use as a paper-based activity.

The workshop gave the perspectives of both staff and students, with input from Peter Taylor, a member of the academic staff and Laraine Ciupruk, a student in the Leicester School of Pharmacy.

Future Developments

The key skills self-assessment has been identified by the University's Progress Files Steering Group as a starting point for PDP for all new undergraduates. Recommendations for a minimum entitlement have been produced, with an element of flexibility in implementation at Faculty level. In the Faculty of Applied Sciences, it is planned that the VARK reflective activity will be repeated, as part of a programme of support for academic study. As a result of feedback from students and staff, the activity will be brought forward into the autumn term, at a point when students have had several weeks' experience of higher education study.

Further information on developments at DMU can be obtained from:
Sue Bloy, Student Learning Advisory Service, De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH
Tel: 0116 2078263

1 Copyright Version 4.1 (2002) held by Neil D Fleming, Christchurch, New Zealand and Charles C Bonwell, Green Mountain Falls, Colorado 80819 USA


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