Impact Indicator and Instruments for Individual Development Plans (I3IDP)

in STEM Graduate Education
This NSF-funded project aims to develop tools for the STEM community to evaluate Individual Development Plan activities on campus or elsewhere.


What is an IDP?

An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a career-planning tool that has been widely used in industry for decades to facilitate individual professional growth along various career trajectories.


In recent years, IDPs have been adapted to support the career and professional development of graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Despite an interdisciplinary consensus that IDPs, when used properly, provide a framework for helping graduate students achieve their career goals, there is little alignment among STEM disciplines and institutions about the specific, measurable outcomes of IDP use. This knowledge gap inhibits the availability of reliable effective practices for IDP use and its wide adoption among educators.


IGE Award

Innovations in Graduate Education

This National Science Foundation award to the American Chemical Society will help:
  • Define core goals for the IDP process
  • Develop tools that measure the impact of IDPs on the professional development of graduate students in STEM




The project outcomes will catalyze the generation of evidence for effective use of IDPs – evidence that is needed to:
  • Scale the use of an IDP process
  • Support and inform additional investments in career planning and graduate education
  • Foster growth of the field of PhD career development

Ultimately, results from this project have the potential to improve educational outcomes in graduate education and to better prepare the U.S. workforce.


This project will work nationally across STEM disciplines to align activities associated with implementing and measuring the impact of the IDP process, fulfilling three project objectives:

1 Define

core goals and measurable outcomes for the IDP process

2 Develop

and test a set of instruments for demonstrating changes in student actions and attitudes resulting from use of the IDP process

3 Recommend

strategies for building a base of evidence on how and why the IDP process works in various contexts



The innovation of this project will be a toolkit to be used across the STEM graduate education community, including:
  • A collection of standard impact indicators
  • A set of validated instruments
  • Guidance on their use
Initial drafts of the instruments will be created based on:
  • Prior research
  • Interviews with a range of STEM stakeholders
  • Feedback from career planning professionals and assessment experts


The collection of psychometric surveys and other tools will be:


using cognitive interviews


with students from various graduate programs and backgrounds


at selected campuses with a statistically relevant number of graduate students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups


  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Input from gatherings of subject matter experts
  • Insights from and surveys of those attending discussions with and presentations to the STEM graduate education and career development communities
  • Focus groups of graduate students
  • Results from use of the toolkit


1 A set of instruments can be developed to measure the impacts of the IDP process as it is used in different ways to guide students with different backgrounds, experiences, and career goals

2 Engaging a range of stakeholders, nationally and at academic institutions, in developing and testing this set of instruments will form a cadre that is interested and invested in using the project findings, resources, and recommendations to build a broader and more robust research base on the effective use and impact of the IDP process on graduate students