• Students’ representations and experiences of personal development and PDP at one British University

      Jankowska, Maja (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2012-12)
      Those who teach in Higher Education in the UK face with the growing internationalisation and diverse landscape of the sector as well as an obligation to provide students with opportunities for personal, professional and academic development. Whilst a great deal has been written about both internationalisation and Personal Development Planning (PDP), a structured and supported process, which is intended to enable individual students to reflect upon their learning and plan for their future (QM, 2000), relatively little is known about international students' perceptions and experiences of such development and planning. This thesis aims to explore issues that are under-represented in the literature, experiences, perceptions and meanings of personal development and PDP among international students, and cast some light· on the complexities of individuals' development and growth. It employs a broadly phenomenological perspective, attending to individual representations and understandings of a small group of culturally diverse students in one university setting, captured with the use of qualitative research methods (concept maps and interviews). Methodologically, it attends to the researcher's specific insider/outsider positioning and highlights reflexivity as the key feature of the research process. It documents the research journey in a transparent and conscious way, evidencing the methodological experimentation and the development of the researcher. This research raises key questions about uncritical application of concepts such as PDP as well as other pedagogic practices in increasingly diverse classrooms that are underpinned by Western philosophical and scholarly traditions. It challenges a narrow perspective of personal development as centred on agency, individuality, self-promotion, independence and personal achievement and gain by inviting a consideration of personal development and learning as socially constructed processes with a wider range of purposes than traditionally articulated by PDP. It also challenges the perception of international students as 'bearers of problems' and 'empty vessels' and contributes to the shift in the literature from the rhetoric of blame and deficiency to the rhetoric of resource - respectful of students' experiences and knowledge. Whilst not claiming generalisability from a small sample of participants, this project nonetheless has broader implications for researching and teaching across cultures, raising awareness of complexities of multicultural education. In this research I focus on students' ideas of personal development (PD) and personal development planning (PDP). By looking for things that support, not hinder their personal, professional, social and academic development I am able to offer some insights into students' conceptions, beliefs, experiences, hopes and aspirations and suggest ways of improving educational practice (especially in terms of PDP).