How-To 2: Write a Personal Learning Plan

Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Why do you want to study?

How-To 2: Write a Personal Learning Plan

The answer is in YOUR hands. If your educational career is not limited to the stereotypical four-years-of-full-time-college + one-internship + job, or even if it is, edupunks can use a personal learning plan to guide their explorations. You can write yours in a notebook, with markers on construction paper, or a document on your computer. Here’s what it should contain.

1. Goal. Pick your path:

  • “I want steady professional employment in the field of sustainability.”
  • “I want to start a business that feeds my love of jewelry.”
  • “I want to combine teaching English with travel.” (“I want a college degree” is not a goal, because it’s not an end in itself.)
  • Set a deadline.

What do you think? Select a piece of text to add your own public notes and helpful comments for others.

2. Current Status:

Interests and accomplishments, both academic and extracurricular. College courses taken, creative pursuits, volunteer work, personality test results.

3. Learning Steps:

  • The type of credential you want to initially pursue (certificate, license, exam, associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, professional degree or PhD)
  • The specific content and skills you’ll need to master; institutions that may become a part of your quest
  • Prior learning credits, or credits-by-exam, if any, that you’d like to include. Even specific books, videos, websites that you’re planning to read, watch, or use.

Tip: Don’t forget to list skills that are not included in the traditional liberal arts curricula, but that might be key to your personal goal, like financial management skills, or web development, or getting fluent in a second language.
Tip: You can read online syllabi like the ones at Saylor or a departmental website of a college of your choice (here's the Anthropology department at UMass Amherst), to get a sense of what courses go toward what degrees.
Tip: learning steps should include building your personal learning network, which we’ll talk about in Howto #3.

4. Experiential Steps:

The social experiences you want to pursue as part of your learning, including internships, volunteering, travel, leadership of an organization, or experience working with a mentor.

5. Who Can Help:

Parent, sibling, friend, academic advisor at a college of your choice—someone needs to read this learning plan and help hold you accountable for it.

6. Next Steps:

What are you going to do in the next day, week, month, and year to make your plan a reality? It’s a good idea to review weekly, monthly, or every semester with your guide from step 5.

Tip: I like the website Workflowy for creating to-do lists. You might also want to try sketching out your plan on a piece of paper.