An IDP, or Individual Development Plan, is a professional development tool used by many organizations to encourage the iterative process of reflection, defining goals, setting specific objectives, and taking action. myPath aims to provide students with a variety of approaches to the creation of their own personal IDP through offering a diverse network of tools and programming that appeals to the eclectic range of needs, personalities, and learning styles of the McGill Graduate student population.
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The Individual Development Plan taps into goal setting theory by encouraging graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to engage in the practices known to impact goal attainment. The literature on predictors of goal-setting and achievement indicates that recorded goal-setting around concrete objectives, as well as iterative adjustments to, and reflections on goals, are basic criteria underpinning achievement, providing the structure and ongoing engagement to sustain goal pursuit in the long-term (Harkin et al. 2016).
The basic proposition of goal-setting theory is that "conscious goals affect action (Locke & Latham 2002: 705)." As such, it is important to remember that the IDP is not itself the process –rather it is the product of an ongoing iterative process that includes 1) self reflection, 2) exploring & defining future goals, 3) planning, and 4) tracking.
The Value of Self Reflection
There is a well-supported linkage between intrinsic motivation, goal achievement, and subjective wellbeing. According to self-determination theory, “self-concordant goals” (i.e. goals that are intrinsically motivated and forged at the intersection of values and interests) are more easily sustained and attained, and thus lead to increased levels of subjective wellbeing and positive self-regard (Judge et al. 2005; Sheldon & Elliott 1998). Through self-reflection, anticipated goal achievement enhances feelings of self-efficacy and motivation, further driving goal attainment while also promoting mental health and academic wellbeing (i.e. in a feedback loop) (Judge et al. 2005; MacLeod et al. 2008; Morisano et al. 2010; Coates et al. 2008).
The positive affect derived from goal-setting is broadly split between what MacLeod calls (1) an "anticipatory affect" – the positive feelings stemming from "felt goal progress" – and (2) an "anticipated affect," captured in the positive feelings of achieving the goal itself (McLeod 2013: 38). Anticipatory affect is especially necessary for long-term goal success, as it energizes and prolongs goal commitment. In this way, monitoring and structuring goal progress along regular self reflection and benchmarks provides a natural outlet for anticipatory affect to occur and for goal pursuit to continue (Coates et al. 2008; McLeod 2013).
An extensive literature review was conducted for myPath. To view all references, go to https://www.mcgill.ca/gps/students/idp