GPS continues to support the McGill graduate community with staff working remotely.

Individual Development Plan


The Individual Development Plan (IDP) for graduate students was identified in the 2016-2017 McGill Commitment as a way to help graduate students identify and plan their goals throughout their degree.   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 4-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. 


Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies did a comprehensive literature review focused on strategic goal-setting and attainment, with supporting theories in graduate student development and retention, self-efficacy, motivation, wellbeing, vocation and career development. This literature review informed all of the resources, tools and programming developed for myPath.

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PHASE 1: Identify needs and create prototype of tools and programming

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 (October 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


PHASE 2: Development of web application

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- September 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:


PHASE 3: Limited launch and testing of tools and programming

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- September 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:


    Phase 4: University-wide implementation

    The goal of Phase 4 of this project is University-wide implementation of the IDP. This involves 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 includes 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. 

    PHASE 4 ONGOING: October 2019- present. 

    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
    Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

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