Between a 'Learning Contract' and a 'Personal development Plan', between learner and teacher- Who is responsible for change?

Ordi Sharf, Shani Afek, Rami Younis, Martine Granek-Catarivas

Keywords: GP residency program; Personal Development Plan; Learning Contract; Self-directed learning; Learner centered medical education.


Learning contract (LC) and personal development plan (PDP) are both tools used to facilitate personal growth and development of learners, but they have some key differences. The change of terms reflects a shift of values, towards respecting the autonomy and responsibility of learners and facilitating self-directed learning. As residents come from diverse backgrounds and possess unique learning needs, program directors and instructors having health-care system constraints and responsibility for high-quality standards of medical training, often find themselves in a dilemma between values.


We conducted a discussion regarding the LC and PDP tools, conflicting values, challenges and constraints in the context of our family medicine residency program in Israel. Residents were divided into 3 characteristic groups by our department leading staff according to their performance in clinical and academic tasks, reflecting their learning/professional needs and gaps. Each group required different level of involvement from the department staff to achieve goals. Choice of tool between PDP and LC differed accordingly. In one group LC was declared mandatory and implemented with supervision of senior instructors dedicated to the project. The other two groups will be offered either LC or PDP as an optional tool. Project effectiveness is being evaluated by residents' feedback, internal assessment tools and certification exams success rate.


The project is still ongoing. LC tool has been implemented as mandatory in one group of 10 residents so far. Preliminary results suggest improvement in Certification exams success rate compared with previous years, although not of statistical significance.


LC and PDP are important tools for facilitating learning and personal development. Both tools have advantages and limitations in GP residency programs. Our presentation focuses on the differing perceptions of roles and responsibilities between learners and instructors/program-directors in the implementation of LCs and PDPs. The choice of tool should align with individual resident requirements, reflection abilities, self-directed learning skills, motivation and goals.

Points for discussion:

Roles and responsibilities of learners and instructors/program-directors in planning and promoting proffessional development

Advantages and limitations of LC and PDP in GP residency programs

values and conflicts related to learner centered approach in medical education


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