Needs analysis and action plan

This was a challenging task, as I am not one for long term plans for professional development, although I do recognise the value in seeking out development opportunities.

Initially I considered the much-used SMART approach (Doran 1981) for translating the needs I identified in my reflective audit of professional duties into an action plan. However, on reflection this doesn’t fit well with the way I view the world, as it presents a very mechanistic and linear approach to change and development in aligning specific targets with a desired end result and timeframe.

Looking around for an alternative that is more compatible with my ‘action research’ approach to change and practice development, I found the SOAR (Kumar, 2015) model for employability useful for framing my thoughts. This approach recognises the importance of how the, “inner world of self engages with and is influenced by the outer world of opportunity and others.” (Kumar 2015, p4). At the heart of the model is the idea that individuals will benefit from developing higher levels of self-awareness and by taking responsibility and control, they can navigate the contexts that they find themselves in to their advantage. The model outlined below is one that I can adapt for my own action planning purposes:

  • Self-awareness (S) – how we see ourselves, our capabilities and how this changes over time
  • Opportunity awareness (O) – opportunities available to achieve aspirations or goals
  • Aspirations (A) – what we want to achieve
  • Results (R) – competencies developed as outcomes that can evaluated to demonstrate achievement.

The steps outlined above are achieved through an appreciative inquiry process of self-development. This approach builds on our strengths and successes rather than focussing on what is failing or not working.

Needs analysis

The needs analysis undertaken in the first few weeks of the course is a good starting point for reflection, and combined with the experience of writing my case studies in relation to the specialist outcomes, has enabled me to identity three areas of expertise and knowledge that I should focus on. I wish to develop:

  1. Monitoring and evaluating staff and educational development

How do we know or at least have some evidence to inform that what I do as an educational developer, is helpful to colleagues that I work with and the students they teach?

  1. Widening my role as an educational developer

In previous roles, I have had success innovating around the development of new courses and teaching practices. How can I broaden the scope of my role of academic developer to include innovation around curriculum and academic working practices?

  1. Developing interdisciplinarity

Rather than a focus on ‘Development in the disciplines’ (identified in my needs analysis), I would like to develop my understanding of specialist areas such as education for sustainability and the use of coaching approaches for teaching as I think they have wide applicability across the different disciplines.

Action plan (SOAR)

Theme Self awareness Opportunity awareness Aspirations Results
  1. Monitoring and evaluating staff and educational development
I don’t have a very sophisticated personal theory of evaluating the effectiveness of staff educational development. My reading around the topic suggests that this is a relatively poorly understood by academic development colleagues. The CARPE project (discussed in case study 3) will provide an opportunity to develop a useful evaluation strategy that helps answer not just the what question, but also the why and in what circumstances.

There is awareness amongst colleagues that demonstrating impact of our work is becoming increasingly important and this will provide further opportunities to develop this strand of activity.


Develop a simple model, informed by developmental theory identified in case study 2. At the moment, I envisage this as a set of simple questions to reflect upon, backed up by the collection of easy to collect data. Be able to debate the effectiveness and impact of academic development activities informed by theory and practice.
  1. Widening my role as an educational developer
This is my first role as an academic developer in a specialist unit. As such, I am learning a lot about the role and the operating of educational development departments. I understand that for some this is a well-defined mission, but I think that there is a strong case to broaden my role to include a wider set of activities around innovation in curriculum design and working practices. This is difficult to identify many specific opportunities at this moment in time. However, I have recently begun working with a colleague in education who wishes to develop an online course. I have supported her in a bid for some internal project funding and if successful I will be actively involved in developing courses – hopefully an approach that can be used elsewhere!

A more significant opportunity exists in the work that I am doing with a colleague outside of my institution. For a couple of years now we have been developing a model for integrating open educational resources including MOOCs with Chinese institutions seeking to internationalise their courses. To do this, I need to develop relationships with the international office, within my institution.

Use the experience gained through my external work in my current institution. Take-up of innovations in online learning in different parts of my current institution.
3.     Developing interdisciplinarity There are significant domains of knowledge that are increasingly required across curriculum areas that I would like to know more about. Different colleagues have particular expertise and passion for domains of knowledge and are very willing to support my own development in these areas. I have enroled on a level 7, 15 credit unit for education for sustainable development; I am undertaking development in LEGO Serious Play with an accredited practitioner; and in September will start a level 5 qualification in mentoring. Be able to support colleagues in a wider range of domains of knowledge and teaching techniques. Enhance my own employability.

George, Doran. 1981). “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”, Management Review, Vol. 70, Issue 11, pp. 35-36.

Arti, Kumar. 2015. “Innovative pedagogies series: Enabling all learners to SOAR for employability. An inclusive, integrative pedagogy.” York: Higher Education Academy

Nick, Tilley and Alan Clarke. 2006. “Evaluation in Criminal Justice.” In The SAGE Handbook of Evaluation, ed. Ian Shaw, Jennifer Greene, and Melvin Mark. 512-535. London: SAGE.