What are PDRs and why are they important?

Written by Holly Hart, Organisation Development Consultant, Organisation Development 

The aim of the on-going PDR process is to ensure we have regular, high quality conversations about how we are doing, our goals, and what development, support and advice we need to achieve our goals and objectives.

The formal PDR meeting is an opportunity to have a conversation reflecting on the past year, and recognising our achievements, challenges, development and progress. Based on our reflections on the past year, it’s also the time to make plans for the year ahead, and to set our objectives. Considering how we are performing will help us to identify the best way to approach our personal and professional development over the next year and beyond.

The aim is to have a constructive and motivating conversation which creates clarity about our performance and our objectives.

The outcomes from the conversation are documented on a PDR form, which is used to capture the discussion between the ourselves and the reviewer. To help faculties make sure that each of us has access to the right types of support and development as well as to inform decisions around reward and recognition, PDR forms are made available to line management.

In addition to the annual PDR conversation, we are all encouraged to meet with our reviewers regularly throughout the year. These informal meetings are an opportunity to have open, honest and constructive conversations about performance, development and support. This will help to ensure that there are no surprises at the annual formal PDR meeting, and will also ensure that we are getting the support and advice that we need throughout the year.

There are a number of resources available to support our preparation for the PDR meeting, including the PDR Support webpage which has a short video on preparing for your PDR. Our Principles in Action also gives us a framework to think of our own development, and there are a number of tools to help us consider our development on the internal webpages.

Getting Involved with Teaching

Written by Dr Alan Brailsford, Postdoctoral Analyst, Analytical & Environmental Sciences

Working at a university with around 29,000 students it isn’t surprising that the prospect of at least some involvement in teaching will occur during our life as researchers at King’s, and for those of us keen to contribute there is no shortage of opportunities. However, teaching involvement raises certain questions:  How much time can we commit to? How will any extra workload impact on our primary roles (papers, grants etc)? What are the benefits of teaching involvement?

As researchers we are hardly short of things to do during the working day (and frequently beyond), therefore finding additional time to devout to teaching can be difficult. The best way to resolve this conflict would seem to be open conversations with our line managers, to establish what level of teaching commitment can be realistically achieved given our other responsibilities. Such conversations can of course occur at anytime, but perhaps are most appropriate during a PDR. Not only is this the time for current contributions to be acknowledged, but future teaching input for the year ahead can be agreed upon by both parties, and any compromises regarding other responsibilities made (after all, there are only so many hours in the day). For example, the teaching commitment can be outlined as either a percentage of work time, or total hours over the year, therefore taking into account the inevitable fluctuations in the teaching load. Activities can easily be recorded and monitored through the Teaching Database, which has improved over the last few years and something as researchers we should be filling in to officially record our contribution. Furthermore, it maybe that after taking into account your teaching load it is necessary to review other commitments, for instance getting an agreement to push back other deadlines, or to pass on responsibilities.

Given the inevitable impact on other activities it is important that any teaching contribution is both beneficial to the individual and recognised by the university. Personally, I enjoy the interactions with students and seeing them grow and improve of the year I spend with them is highly rewarding. Project supervision while time consuming can be great for getting small projects done that I never quite get round to. Teaching can also be used to gain additional qualifications such as the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practise in Higher Education, which not only helps your CV but is beneficial for anyone wishing to pursue a career involving education.

As for recognition, in the longer term universities are increasingly offering career progression based on teaching related activates. More immediately though, recognition needs to come from within the department to those making a contribution, and more widely from the faculty and university, something which I know is being reviewed by King’s at the moment.

So in summary, for those wishing to be involved in teaching, both the opportunities and the benefits are there. But to be maximised successfully time management and establishing realistic expectations and goals are important.