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Volume 30 Issue 7 (July 2020)

GSA Today

Article, pp. 34–35 | Full Text | PDF


Individual Development Plans (IDPs): An Underutilized Advising Tool in the Geosciences

Deborah E. Eason

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96822, USA, deborahe@hawaii.edu

Barbara C. Bruno

Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96822, USA

Daniela Böttjer-Wilson

Center for Teaching Excellence, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96822, USA

Individual Development Plans

Effective mentorship plays an important role in student retention and success. However, many faculty lack formal training in mentoring and may not be aware of some available tools, such as individual development plans (IDPs). IDPs have received little attention in the geosciences despite their growing popularity in other science fields.

IDPs are designed to help research trainees set academic goals, develop professional skills, explore career opportunities, and conduct long-term career planning. Originally developed to help prepare students for a tightening academic job market (FASEB, 2002), IDPs are also a useful advising tool, highly valued by mentors for facilitating communication and identifying areas for improvement (e.g., Hobin et al., 2014). IDPs have been gaining popularity at the graduate and postdoctoral level and were recently featured by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) in their new report on effective mentoring (NASEM, 2019).

Developing an IDP is an iterative process that includes self-assessment and action planning components. IDPs leverage effective practices in goal setting (e.g., Gollwitzer, 1999) with a focus on skills development rather than specific performance metrics. Ideally, the mentee obtains guidance and feedback on their IDP from their advisor and/or others.

Some university departments and even individual lab groups (e.g., Vincent et al., 2015) have developed their own forms to guide this process. For those interested in more extensive career exploration tools, there are also several free online IDP platforms, such as myIDP (http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/) for STEM, and ImaginePhD (https://www.imaginephd.com) for the humanities and social sciences.

While data on IDP effectiveness are sparse and generally based on small sample sets, initial studies are promising (e.g., Tsai et al., 2018). A 2014 survey of postdocs (Hobin at al., 2014) found relatively low usage rates but high perceived value among those who had used IDPs (71% of postdocs, 90% of mentors).

Manuscript received 12 Jan. 2020. Revised manuscript received 27 Mar. 2020. Manuscript accepted 8 Apr. 2020. Posted 20 Apr. 2020.

© 2020, The Geological Society of America. CC-BY-NC.


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