May 31, 2011

Efficiency in the World of Academia

Follow-up to Probing the Hidden Skills from Sam's blog

                                                            Efficiency in the World of Academia                                                            

Tutor's name: Ceri Marriott

Being able to become a sucessful learner does not only involve knowing one's fortes, but having the ability to make the most of these. Therefore, I embarked on a process of refining these strength points and gradually bridging the weaknesses. As a matter of fact, this has been the most rewarding action plan I have ever done in my MA study. The points I have taken involved the following:

1- I devloped a trial and error approach that gives me empowerment in case of initial failure, or as I say a now '' a stumbling block along the way''. Having tried to establish a study group with my dissertation group, I faced a myriad of reasons from them preventing us from meeting, although they showed initial excitment about the idea in itself. I guess because it appeals to the common sense.

However, that did not stop me from looking for solution and maybe compromises in terms of the time, availability and the content of our group discussions. I hardly could get them to come for the first meeting and not to claim complete evangelicalism, I had some preservations as well, but I perservered into getting the first meeting knowing how it will stand me in good stead. To cut a long story short, the first meeting was a complete sucess and I can say it took all participants a long time to prepare for it and that might be the crux that made a second meeting almost impossible.

Since it is compatible with my way of learning, I refused to give up and I had to find someone who shares the same ''mindset''. Therefore, I managed to convince another friend doing from a different research group to have regular meetings together. We even lost count of the meetings that we have had so far because we are getting their benefits. I ascribe that to the fact that we now read for the purpose of critiquing and discuss for the sake of learning and honing our speaking and reasoning skills.

In short ''Externalising information is Awesome!!'' 

2- As part of my MA programme, I am doing huge reading on about empirical studies that involve showing all kinds charts and diagrams. I usually avoid reading these primarily because I am intimidated of them. Nonetheless, I took a more intrepid approach and started to deal with this problem head-on. I have to admit that it took me a while to get used to dealing with visuals, but I can sense a noticeable improvement in my progress as I started to become time-efficient in ''deciphering'' them to say the least. Now, I started to enjoy them and I am experiencing a sheer sense of achivement being able to at least partially tackle them. In addition, I am trying to look at them in the newspapers, magazines, and even billboards.......I must have been missing on a lot then!

Putting steps one and two in action made me a more cross-curricular person with a substantial boost in confidence each time I practice any of them. I realise now that regular meetings for group study is not a waste of time becasue it helps cement the information learnt. Moreover, reading flowcharts and diagrams broadens my horizons and made me gain a more rounded personality.

If I am now on doubt of how to spell a word, I write it and compare it with another one that I suspect of. This new strategy in itself has had an amazing impact on me and I have a great sense of achivement now every time I apply these new strategies. The most important trait I have acquired is to adapt ''a growth mindset'' which made me direct my efforts towards certain goals, setting myself more challenging goals upon sucess, ascribe failure to personal effort rather than blaming others like tutors and colleagues, and believe in self-efficacy in performing different tasks.

3- As regards academic skills, I spent now less time reading and more time doing in-depth analysis of the research papers at hand. In addition, I developed a new habit of writing a summary of every article or chapter of a book after I have finished it. Not to mention, harnessing the learning environment to serve my learning abilities. For example, I eat healthier, take fresh air, take regular breaks every time I start to feel tired before I get burnt out.

Although the latter point seem a little irrelevant as everyone rant about them, but they seiously work. For example, I have a regulat routine of waking up and sleeping every day, two ''ME'' hours in the morning checking e-mails and facebook and watching some sitcoms. I have a new novelty as I go after five o'clock to ''Jephson Gardens in Leamington Spa to take fresh air and finish my reading, though my favourite part is feeding the squirrels and ducks.

In conclusion, learning strategies are not only about academic development and doing boring chores to sap our energy, but they have the potential to implement personal development, attitude adjustment, and increase our self-confidence.

I am now taking extra workshops towards refining my skills just for the sake of enjoyment and personal fulfillment.

Thanks a million Ceri for this workshop as it is time for to go the Garden now!


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Ceri Marriott

    It’s very good to hear that you have persisted with the targets from your action plan, Sam, and have succeeded in establishing academic and lifestyle changes which have led to you really feeling at one with your learning. Your reflections in this blog demonstrate how much more confident and positive you are in yourself and in your approach to, and outlook on, learning and life in general, and it is great that you have tried to share this with others who could benefit from it.
    I’m glad you’ve found someone like-minded to meet with and discuss things through in a critical manner; in many ways it’s very good to do this with someone from a different research group as you can bring completely fresh approaches to your discussions. Even though you perhaps won’t be able to get people of your own research group to the type of meeting you first planned, it sounds as if the meeting you held with these people went very well and took a lot of hard work and preparation. Maybe you could float the idea of a fortnightly or monthly meeting to which people could bring things they want to discuss; that way it’s up to them how much preparation they do, and they could come along without doing any preparation if they wanted and just air a topic / question they want to raise.
    Your approach to embracing things you previously found difficult / taxing, such as your approaches to diagrams and reading, is transformative, and I’m very glad the workshop helped you in this.
    It’s really important that you try to keep a healthy work /life style balance, and as you’ve so very ably demonstrated, this can be achieved with just a few changes to what you do and when and how you approach things which need to be done.
    You produced a very good action plan and very poignant reflections and follow-up action points to round off the Effective Learning Strategies workshop and blogs, Sam. I hope you can take these strategies further into other areas as your academic career progresses – all the best; I’ll look forward to reading your final reflective entry for the WSPA as a whole.

    02 Jun 2011, 14:57

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