What Information Should Be Included In A Learning And Development Plan?

My motto is ‘keep things simple’! I know there is a school of thought out there that says the exact opposite in order to justify peoples’ existences and spending wheelbarrows of cash on explanations and solutions. Keep things simple.

So, what information should be included in a learning and development plan? In old money, I suppose this plan is analogous to a ‘curriculum’, but maybe that word is a little out of fashion with its association with school, and by it not actually having the word ‘plan’ in it, could suggest that no planning is required. That would be, of course, entirely erroneous and makes me think of that good old chestnut, ‘the more things change, the more things stay the same.’

Anyway, going back to a learning and development plan, apart from the obvious, such as the learner’s name, the course title, and an overarching aim, I think the plan should contain the following:

Objectives – SMART ones (Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) so you can be assured the learner has acquired the relevant skills. How do you know the learner has really understood something otherwise? By the way, how do you test the objective ‘to understand something’? In short, you can’t. You need to break that down into skills which you can observe and measure.

An order of learning things so there is a logical flow. That said, I do love those “eureka” moments when the capstone falls into place and the whole structure makes sense. The only problem with this, however, is if the learner does not experience the Eureka moment! Nevertheless, this can be mitigated by a recap – it just needs to be included in the plan, perhaps as an optional extra, as those who experienced Eureka won’t require it.

Resources the learner will need to undertake the course. This can be media of any kind, such as books, articles, elearning, TV or radio programmes, a physical entity (including a person who acts as mentor) etc.

An idea of expected duration – if you don’t have a plan, how do you know where you are or if you’re falling behind etc? If expected duration is one side of the coin, actual duration is the other. Where the two become completely unaligned, it may be opportune to revisit the plan and modify it accordingly, one way or the other. This is perhaps where it’s most apt to mention Review. Plans should not be written in stone – they should be easy to modify, because it’s not the subject matter that’s at the heart of the learning, but the learner.

Evidence that learning has occurred – be it a test, a presentation, an action. The evidence required should be appropriate for what it is pertaining to provide proof of, so that a cooking skill, for example, should not require an essay as confirmation of mastery, that would be inappropriate. This evidence should be part of a portfolio to show progress and the attainment of knowledge or skills, or both.

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