GPS remains operational with staff working remotely during campus closure. 

Individual Development Plan



The Individual Development Plan (IDP) for graduate students was identified in the 2016-2017 McGill Commitment as a way to expand current offerings for developing career-enhancing professional skills of graduate students.   This project responds to growing international, national, and institutional interest in providing graduate students with explicit academic, career, and professional development goal-setting tools to help them prepare for their post-degree careers. Our proposal is to develop an Individual Development Plan (IDP) tool and process that will integrate goal setting into the curriculum at McGill. 

Institutions across North America are working to develop IDP tools, processes, and mechanisms to support graduate students. In the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has asked institutions to document that they provide structured Individual Development Plans for all NIH-supported doctoral students and postdocs. This has resulted in a widespread adoption of Individual Development Plans for graduate students at American institutions, often across all disciplines.

The scope of this project extends beyond the development of an IDP tool. Rather, the goal of this 3-phase multi-year project is to develop a sustainable integration of the IDP (as a tool and as a practice) for graduate students at McGill. 



The goal of phase 1 of the project is to develop a sustainable plan for University-wide implementation of the IDP. Phase 1 includes several objectives: 

  • Environmental scan:  McGill and across North America to determine what types of IDP initiatives (tools and processes for implementation) currently exist. 
  • Literature review: Identify best practices for goal setting tools and programming according to research literature.
  • Creation of the Individual Development Framework: A framework of goal categories that will provide students with guidance on areas to focus on when creating their Individual Development Plan.
  • IDP Workbook: A comprehensive Workbook will be written, tailored specifically for the IDP initiative.
  • Pilot Workshops: IDP workshops will be offered to graduate students in 4 McGill departments, modeled on the pilot IDP workshop delivered by CaPS and GPS to Family Medicine.
  • Assessment: Focus groups and one-on-one sessions (downtown and at Macdonald campus) will evaluate current needs related to goal-setting for our target audience. Later focus groups and one-on-one sessions will evaluate the guidebook content and discuss programming options. Workshops will be assessed via surveys.

PHASE 1 COMPLETED (Oct 2016- May 2017).  Outcomes:

  • Established the themes and categories for the Individual Development Framework.
  • First draft of workbook and programs piloted:
    • Feedback from the focus groups have indicated the need to create a web application that will provide access to the workbook exercises and link to on-campus offerings in a unified digital platform.
    • Focus groups and survey results indicate need for diverse programming options - including: professionally led vs peer-led programs, and intensive (one day) vs extended (spread out) options.
  • Established myPath as the identifier for the network of tools and programs that are being developed for the IDP



The goal of Phase 2 of this project  be on creating a web application that students can use to produce their IDP (objective 2 below) and to develop supporting resources (handout series) for the Individual Development Framework

  • IDF: Create a series of handouts for each of the 21 categories in the Individual Development Framework.
  • Web Application: Requests for Proposals will be sent to several developers in the summer of 2017. A vendor will be selected by the fall and a prototype will be built for January 2018. A beta version of the application is planned for summer 2019. The application will include: reflection exercises, personal inventories, a goal-setting planner, and direct links to various resources and professional development opportunities at McGill. 
  • Assessment: Focus groups and Usability sessions.

PHASE 2 COMPLETED: May 2017- Dec 2019. OUTCOMES:

  • IDF: Published final report from the Individual Development Framework in September 2018. Created, in consultation with on-campus experts and partners, 21 handouts the Individual Development Framework. Tested in student focus groups. Online PDFs of the handouts are available here:
  • Web application: Vendor selected, prototype built. Contract to develop the app started Jan 2018. McGill IT created API for integration with in Summer 2018.  Usability sessions done in Aug 2018. Integration with McGill Student Information System and final features developed in fall 2018. Quality assurance completed in summer 2019. Final testing, bug fixes and beta launch in fall 2019. Public launch January 2020. Login to online platform here:



The goal of Phase 3 of this project is to use the findings from phase 1 to develop and test tools and programs that will support students' creation of an IDP. Specific objectives include:

    • Workbook & Planner: The workbook containing an Individual Development Plan will be finalized, and a semester planner will be created to accompany it.
    • Programming: 4 types of supporting programs will be created (a customizable workshop, Peer led discussion groups, Pathways program, and Annual Retreat)
    • Assessment: Focus groups and feedback surveys will be run to evaluate and obtain feedback on the tools and programming.

    PHASE 3 COMPLETED: January 2019- December 2019. OUTCOMES:

    • Workbook & Planner: Revised based on initial feedback. Extended versions created and tested. Redesigned and condensed for use in workshops. Final edits and graphic design finalized in March 2019. Online PDFs of the Workbook & Planner are available here: 
    • Programming: Launched for targeted student groups from February 2019 Continuously refined based on feedback. List of offerings available here:



    The goal of Phase 4 of this project is University-wide implementation of the IDP. This will involve many interrelated aspects, including integration with existing tools, services, and resources, obtaining buy-in from stakeholders in the graduate community, policy approval, and providing support to the community. The plan will include strategies for communications and  implementation, building of partnerships with Faculties (e.g., Associate Deans Graduate Education) and gaining buy-in from the graduate community in order to rollout the IDP University-wide and develop GPS policy. 


    Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies compiled a comprehensive literature review focused on strategic goal-setting and attainment, with supporting theories in self-efficacy, positive psychology, vocation, and professional enrichment. This literature review informed all of the resources, tools and programming developed for myPath. 

    References include:

    Ash, Sarah L., Patti H. Clayton, and Maxine P. Atkinson. 2005. “Integrating Reflection and Assessment to Capture and Improve Student Learning.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 11(2): 49-60.

    Bandura, Albert. 1991. "Social Cognitive Theory of Self-Regulation." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50(2): 248-287. 

    Bindl, U. K., Parker, S. K., Totterdell, P., & Hagger-Johnson, G. 2012. "Fuel of the self-starter: How mood relates to proactive goal regulation." Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(1), 134.

    Brown, & Latham. 2006. "The Effect of Learning vs. Outcome Goals on Self-Efficacy, Satisfaction and Performance in an MBA Program." Applied Psychology: An International Review 55(4): 606-623.

    Canadian Association for Graduate Studies. 2003. "The Completion of Graduate Studies in Canadian Universities." Ottawa, Ontario. Retrieved on April 14, 2017. (

    Cassuto, Leonard. 2013. "Ph.D. Attrition: How Much Is Too Much?" The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 1. Retrieved April 21, 2017 (

    Coates, Emma, Jacquie Hetherton, and Andrew K. Macleod. 2008. "Increasing Well-Being through Teaching Goal-Setting and Planning Skills: Results of a Brief Intervention." Journal of Happiness Studies 9(2): 185-196.

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    Dancy II, T. Elon, and M. Christopher Brown. 2011. "The Mentoring and Induction of Educators of Color: Addressing the Impostor Syndrome in Academe." Journal of School Leadership 21(4): 607-634.

    Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. 2000. "The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior." Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.

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    Harkin, Benjamin, Thomas L. Webb, Betty P.I. Chang, Andrew Prestwich, Conner, Mark Kellar, Yael Benn, and Paschal Sheeran. 2016. “Does Monitoring Goal Progress Promote Goal Attainment? A Meta-Analysis of the Experimental Evidence.” Psychological Bulletin 142(2): 198-229.

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    Hope, N. H., Holding, A. C., Verner-Filion, J., Sheldon, K. M., & Koestner, R. 2018. "The path from intrinsic aspirations to subjective well-being is mediated by changes in basic psychological need satisfaction and autonomous motivation: A large prospective test." Motivation and Emotion, 1-10.

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    Jagakinski, Carolyn M., and Shamala Kumar. 2006. "Imposters Have Goals Too: The Imposter Phenomenon and its Relationship to Achievement Goal Theory." Personality and Individual Differences 40 (1): 147-157.

    Judge, Timothy A., Joyce E. Bono, Amir Erez, and Edwin A. Locke. 2005. "Core Self-Evaluations and Job and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Self-Concordance and Goal Attainment." Journal of Applied Psychology 90(2): 257-268.

    Kasser, Tim, and Kenneth M. Sheldon. 2001. "Goals, Congruence, and Positive Well-Being: New Empirical Support for Humantistic Theories." Journal of Humanistic Psychology 41(1): 30-50.

    Kegan, Robert. 1994. In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Kiesler, Charles A. 1971. The Psychology of Commitment: Experiments Linking Behavior to Belief. New York, NY: Academic Press.

    Koestner, R., Otis, N., Powers, T. A., Pelletier, L., & Gagnon, H. 2008. "Autonomous motivation, controlled motivation, and goal progress." Journal of Personality, 76(5), 1201–1230.

    Koestner, R., Powers, T. A., Carbonneau, N., Milyavskaya, M., & Chua, S. N. 2012. "Distinguishing autonomous and directive forms of goal support: Their effects on goal progress, relationship quality, and subjective well-being." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(12), 1609-1620.

    Kristof, Amy L. 1996. "Person-organization Fit: An Integrative Review of its Conceptualizations, Measurements, and Implications." Personnel Psychology 49(1): 1-49.

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    Lekes, N., Hope, N. H., Gouveia, L., Koestner, R., & Philippe, F. L. 2012. "Influencing value priorities and increasing well-being: The effects of reflecting on intrinsic values." The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(3), 249-261.

    Lieff, Susan. 2009. “The Missing Link in Academic Career Planning and Development: Pursuit of Meaningful and Aligned Work.” Academic Medicine 84(10): 1383-1388.

    Locke, Edwin A., and Gary P. Latham. 1991. “Self-Regulation through Goal-Setting.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 57: 212-247.

    Locke, Edwin A., and Gary P. Latham. 2002. “Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation." American Psychologist 57(9): 705–717.

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    Louis, Michelle C., and Shane J. Lopez. 2014. “Strengths Interventions: Current Progress and Future Directions.” Pp. 66-89 in The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Positive Psychological Interventions. Ed. Stephen Schueller and Acacia C. Parks. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

    MacLeod, Andrew K. 2013. "Goals and Plans: Their Relationship to Well-Being." Pp. 33-50 in A Positive Psychology Perspective on Quality of Life. Ed. A. Efklides and D. Moraitas. New York, NY: Springer.

    Martin, Andrew J. 2015. “Growth Approaches to Academic Development: Research into Academic Trajectories and Growth Assessment, Goals, and Mindsets.” British Journal of Educational Psychology 85: 133-137.

    Marx, Emily, and Lisa Gates. 2016. "(Re)conceptualizing Meaning Making in Higher Education: A Case for Integrative Educational Encounters that Prepare Students for Self-Authorship." Pp. 98-120 in The Neuroscience of Learning and Development: Enhancing Creativity, Compassion, Critical Thinking, and Peace in Higher Education. Ed. M. J. Bresciani Ludvik. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

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    Neubert, Michelle J. 1998. "The Value of Feedback and Goal Setting Over Goal Setting Alone and Potential Moderators of this Effect: a Meta-Analysis." Human Performance 11(4): 321-335.

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    Pyhältö, Kirsi, and Jenni Keskinen. 2012. “Doctoral Students’ Sense of Relational Agency in Their Scholarly Communities.” International Journal of Higher Education 1(2): 136-149.

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    We are working in concert with a number of university units to offer valuable resources, tools, and support networks to help PhDs achieve the goals they have established in their IDPs.

    Student Services:


    Post Graduate Students' Society (PGSS)


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