The Edupunks' Guide: How to Write a Personal Learning Plan

Posted by Anya Kamenetz and Dylan C. Lathrop

Learning plan

It’s the best of times and the worst of times to be a learner. College tuition has doubled in the past decade, while the options for learning online and independently keep expanding. Anya Kamenetz's new free ebook The Edupunks’ Guide is all about the many paths that learners are taking in this new world, and we're running excerpts from the book all week. We're also asking GOOD readers to doodle your learning journey and submit the result by Sunday, September 11. See all Edupunks excerpts here.

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

The answer is in YOUR hands. If your educational career is not going to be limited to the stereotypical four-years-of-full-time-college + one-internship + job, (and it better not be), you can use a personal learning plan to guide your 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.

2. Current Status: Interests and accomplishments, both academic and extracurricular. Include college courses taken, creative pursuits, volunteer work, personality test results.

3. Learning Steps:

a. the credential or certification, if any, you want to pursue initially

b. the specific content and skills you’ll need to master

c. institutions that may become a part of your quest

d. prior learning credits, or credits-by-exam, if any, that you’d like to include

e. specific books, videos, websites that you’re planning to read, watch, or use

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 adviser 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.