Personal Learning Plans & Portfolios

Educators and family members highly value learning plans and believe that it helps students become more focused learners who complete more challenging coursework in order to reach their self-defined career and life goals. (Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy)

A Personal Learning Plan (PLP) outlines coursework and activities to accomplish career goals.

Research studies by Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, NCWD/Youth and its partners indicate Personal Learning Plans are effective.  Students who were more engaged in PLP activities reported:

  • Stronger goal setting skills
  • Increased motivation to attend school
  • Increased self-efficacy which leads to better academic achievement, stress and health management and readiness to engage in career decision-making
  • Improved understanding of postsecondary options and long term planning
  • Improved school-family communication
  • Increased family involvement in academic/career planning
  • Increased awareness of strengths and weaknesses
  • Increased student selections of courses more relevant to career goals

What do you need to know?

Personal Learning Plans are created as part of the career development process.  Self-awareness and exploration is needed before a student can create a relevant, meaningful PLP.   The following terms are important to creating a common language:

  • A Personal Learning Plan is both a learning process and a planning document for academic, career & technical education, dual credit coursework, workplace learning and activities aligned to career goals.
  • A Portfolio is a collection of artifacts resulting from learning experiences of the PLP and the career development program.  Essential up-to-date documents such as PLP, resumes, applications, assessments, certifications, transcripts, examples of career readiness skills or references may be included.  An e-portfolio is helpful to being ready for new opportunities or career changes at a moment’s notice.

Career planning is an ongoing process as is education and selecting the right coursework and activities.  Personal Learning Plans are a method of planning for yearly or semester registration.  It is also a transitions planning tool for high school graduation and postsecondary entrance requirements.

Personal learning plan image

A digital PLP is recommended for ease of access.  An online career information system provides career planning tools for PLP’s and e-portfolios.  Nebraska has a statewide career information system available free to individuals, schools and agencies to use:
Nebraska Career Connections

Students with disabilities will also need to plan for:

  • Benefits planning in relationship to career choices
  • Communicating their disability-related work support and accommodation needs
  • How to find and formally request supports or accommodations in education, training and employment settings
    (National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability)

PLP / Portfolio strategies for schools identified by National Collaborative for Youth:

  • Begin at least by middle school continue through to postsecondary
  • Use an online career information system for digital PLP (i.e. )
  • Focus on the quality of career development opportunities
  • Involve all faculty and have dedicated advisory time (i.e. teachers-as-advisors program)
  • Include opportunities for family to participate
  • Employ student-led parent/teacher conferences with PLP (National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability)

PLP’s are flexible.  A student may find a career choice is not a good fit for them as they learn more about it.  If so, edit the PLP.  This is also part of learning in the career development process.  In fact, this would be an example of career development that is working!  It is best to find that right fit before it is costly in time and college tuition money by pursuing a career mismatch.

Student led parent teacher conferences is an effective strategy for schools to consider. Students prepare and lead the conference to verify goals and highlight progress on their PLP.  Family engagement is essential in the PLP process.  Coordinated planning and communication between student, home and school will surround students with a team of support to achieve their goals


A career portfolio of personal career information and job search documents including the PLP, resumes, references, certifications and work samples will keep one organized.   Portfolios with easy access is important to being able to apply for career opportunities in a moment’s notice, which is needed in today’s work environment.

All students benefit from career development resulting in a plan and portfolio to guide them through high school graduation and beyond to their postsecondary pathway of higher education, employment, military or entrepreneurship.

Updated December 30, 2019 3:00pm