Although a general outline is provided for the content and structure of the PDP, students are encouraged to write an essay that reflects their individual experience, achievements, and goals. Students write the essay in the first person and include their thoughts on how the plan relates to their chosen field of study. The PDP consists of three parts:
In this section, students write a brief personal introduction, state their personal and professional goals, and articulate how these goals intersect with their academic interests and selected field of study. Students reflect upon the mission of the university: "Walden University provides a diverse community of career professionals with the opportunity to transform themselves as scholar-practitioners so that they may transform society." Students discuss how specialized learning and the attainment of a doctoral degree will help them meet their career and personal life goals.
When developing this section, students reflect on the formal and informal learning experiences that compose their educational background and discuss how these experiences support the direction of study established in Part I. Walden encourages students to include individual knowledge, skills, and accomplishments. Students explain the academic and research proficiencies they bring to the program and identify areas to improve while a Walden student. Students are expected to evaluate honestly their readiness to engage in dissertation research.
Categories for students to consider when writing this section include the following:
Students should be clear about plans for preparing themselves for doctoral study, particularly if gaps exist in their background.
Part III includes an individualized Plan of Study for approaching the Walden program and a formal Program of Study form. For students in the School of Psychology and students in the Ph.D. in Public Health program, Part III of the PDP is the Program of Study form only.
For students in the schools or colleges of education, health and human services, (Ph.D. in Health Services or Ph.D. in Human Services), and management, Part III begins with a summary of their overall learning goals as they relate to their intended field of study. This summary is followed by the Plan of Study, which contains a brief explanation (usually one paragraph per KAM) of the academic topics and professional issues to be explored in each KAM demonstration. Students should consult their curriculum guide and Foundation course instructor when developing these topics.
Students in KAM or KAM-/course-based programs who elect the Self-Designed specialization should complete the Program of Study form using the General Program course numbers for the breadth, depth, and application components of each KAM. The depth and application components should include a subtitle that reflects the focus of the student's own unique self-designed specialization. In the specialized KAMs, generally V, VI, and VII, the titles of the breadth component must also reflect the unique self-designed specialization.
Part III also includes a Program of Study form, a formal document based on the academic evaluation made available to the student from the Office of Admissions, and showing any transferred credit. In consultation with their Foundation course instructor, students use this exercise to create an individualized plan for completing all degree requirements within a specific time frame.
The university suggests that students approach the task of program planning by grouping degree requirements into stages of progress. Students are encouraged to target a completion date and work backward, identifying specific milestones of academic progress and time frames for their completion.
In developing a timeline, students must account for review, revision, and approval of academic work. For most students, academic work is not approved with the first draft. Students should familiarize themselves with the approval processes for academic work, in particular those for Learning Agreements and KAMs, and incorporate flexibility in their timeline. Students use the Program of Study form to gauge their progress toward degree completion. Major revisions to the form require the approval of the faculty advisor/mentor and faculty chair.