Professional Development Review
Researchers in Higher Education will normally undergo a Professional Development Review (sometimes called a Performance Review or Appraisal – the name will differ from one institution to another). This is a formal annual procedure to enable you and your line manager to take stock of progress during the previous year, and plan ahead.
The Review has two main components:
- a review of your research project. Are the strategic aims of the project being met on schedule? Have the aims of the project changed? How can you best adapt to these changing circumstances? It also involves a reflection on what you bring to the project, the skills you have developed and the skills you might need in the coming year
- a consideration of your wider personal development and career goals, and how your employer can support you in achieving them.
The 2008 Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers recommends that these two elements of the Review should be kept separate in order to minimise any conflict of interest between the needs of a specific research project and the long-term development needs of the researcher. However, in many institutions the two elements are combined.
The starting point
The starting point of any Review is a written ‘self-assessment’ of what you have achieved since the last Review meeting. This is normally measured against ‘aims’ or ‘goals’ that have been agreed in advance. Typical goals might be: to complete a key piece of work in the research project; to get a paper published; to plan a short-term project and supervise a project student; to present your work at a conference; to submit a bid for research funding. There are many other possibilities.
The self-assessment will also allow you to consider what you would like to achieve in the longer term. You will be asked to propose some goals that you aim to meet before the next Review meeting. These might be specific to the project (e.g. to get the next paper accepted for publication) or they might relate to your continuing professional development (e.g. to get some experience of teaching or supervision). Think strategically. Consider targets that will benefit your career, not just a year from now, but five or even ten years from now. Can you build any of these long-term targets into your plan for the next year?
You will find some guidance on self-assessment on the Managing your Career pages.
The formal meeting
Once your self-assessment is complete, it will be forwarded to your reviewer or appraiser for their consideration and comment. Between you, you will set an agenda for a formal meeting where you will discuss your self-assessment and agree goals for the coming year.
This is a two-way process. A good reviewer will not present you with their personal list of priorities but will discuss your needs alongside the needs of the project. They should involve you in the discussion. Any goals that are set should be goals that you have both agreed.
It is often (but not always) the case that your line manager will be your reviewer. They will already have direct knowledge of your work, and will be in a good position to comment on it. But to get the best out of your Review, make sure that it is not narrowly confined to the specifics of your current project. The focus should be on YOUR training and development – so that you can gain skills and experience which will make you a more effective, more highly skilled and more employable worker.
The output from the formal meeting will include a written summary of what you discussed and a written agreement of goals for the coming year. This should be an AGREED statement that both you and your reviewer are happy to sign. Your reviewer may ask you to write the first draft, to be sure that it accurately reflects your view of the meeting. Once agreed, the formal record is normally lodged with the university’s Personnel Office and will form the basis of the following year’s Review.
Keep a copy of the final written document. Look at this from time to time over the course of the next year, to remind yourself of what you agreed. This is a useful way of keeping the ‘bigger picture’ in sight. And if your reviewer has promised to let you go to an international conference or to receive valuable training, it is a good way of making sure that he or she delivers on the promise!
It is also worth noting that goals can be changed. You might discover that one of your priority research goals is not achievable, or that it will not be fruitful to pursue it. Other opportunities might come along, that you were unaware of at Review time. You are free to ask your reviewer to look again at the agreed goals and work with you on changing them. They should be realistic and allow for the flexibilities of research, rather than being set in stone.
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