The personal, the platform and the political
This paper examines issues surrounding the use of electronic portfolios for personal development planning (PDP) in sociology. These are now a common feature of many virtual learning environments (VLEs) across higher education institutions. However, while such an approach can be enabling for students in their learning, all too often the learning process can be subtly moulded as an instrumental rather than a critical process. Learning in this context can become a process of managing information (including personal information) rather than discovery, insight and growth. There is a clear tension here for some between what they regard as the academic nature of personal development, leading to personal growth and the concomitant contribution to an educated citizenry, and the underlying national imperative that requires knowledge linked to economic wealth creation. However, in an era of mass higher education, it is often the latter that is a priority for governments. This political dimension to PDP can be lost when located inside the practical matters associated with education as an inner-directed process. One suggestion for overcoming this issue is to make use of Web 2.0 as a platform for opening up reflexive personal development planning through the various tools that permit interaction. This paper considers this proposition in terms of reflexive learning in sociology.