All entries for May 2011

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!


Researcher's Bais; Putting Critical Thinking into Pratice

Follow-up to Critical Thinking – Meta Skills Portfolio from Sam's blog

                                                       Researcher's Bais; Putting Critical Thinking into Pratice

Tutor's name: Austin Griffths

For the last couple of weeks I faced a huge challenge manifested in choosing empirical research articles and critique them in a way that contributes to the development of my MA study. Although I had a rough idea of what articles to choose, I was quite clueless to the way I should approach and tackle them. Therefore, I started to apply the action plan that resulted in a sequential development as the following:

1- I did the reading on two-phases. One might think that I did the reading of the whole article twice and wasted a substantial amount of time. On the contrary, I followed an approach of skimming through a section or an entire part of an article to get a rough idea. Then, instead of highlighting the important words or ideas, I devised a critical approach.

Now I read each experiment or phase of an experiment with an scrutinising observant's eye. I ask and apply the background and expertise of the researhcer on his or her study. By doing so, I gain an insightful view of how the study was conducted and the ulterior motives for the researcher to do it. This helped me not only to understand the underlying reasons for the study, but also to define refine my own research proposal.

2- After revealing the researcher bias, if it had existed, I would objectively wiegh different variables against each other and compare the existing literature against the study itself in order to perform some sort of personal validation for myself saying '' If this study holds water to me, it must do to other academics. This step empowered me and boosted my  self-confidence because I am now more ''academically capable'' person and my ultimate purpose that drove me to come to warwick is coming to life which is ''becoming research-oriented''

3- One more area of development I would have never imagined to reach to is being finally to deliver the knowledge I acquired in front of my colleagues and supervisors. Last week, I suceeded in critiquing three articles that have carried out an empirical study. I made A4 copies of my critiquing plan to all the attendees and suprisingly, neither me or them needed to go back to them because I managed to present my arguments in a lucid way that called my colleagues to wonder to make notes and asking my questions after the critiquing session.

Although one might think that critiquing is all about finding flaws or gaps in studies, it involves carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the method of research whether qualitative, quantitative or both, size of the subjects, the sampling process, the way the data was analysed and interpreted. Honestly, it is overwhelming to be able to do all these steps at the same time, but a deep belief that this is a skill that is apt to improving is empowering. I do not claim to be a deft at doing all the steps, but I am directing all my efforts towards polishing these skills by enough practice.

4- To recapitulate, by applying the skills linked to critical thinking, I have become a more multi-disciplinary person honing my personal and professional development towards a better sense of achivement.

Lastly, by knowing more about research proposals, I gained the confidence to apply for a PhD scholarship in Cambridge....Cross your fingers for me.



May 19, 2011

Critical Thinking – Meta Skills Portfolio

                                                                Learning to Think Critically   

Tutor's name: Austin Griffths

While doing my assignments for my Departments at the Centre for Applied Linguistics, I noticed that a great mark for the marking criteria is dedicated to the ability of students to critically analyse their topics. Therefore, I tried very hard to assess my assignments' ideas in a way I would consider all kinds of arguments in favour and against and then try painstakingly to apply critical thinking to them. However, as the MA programme was progressing, more pressure and in-depth critical thinking is becoming required. Subsequently, I followed a course on critical thinking to be able to refine these skills in my dissertation.

In the next few days we are supposed to choose three articles with empirical studies and reported results and then critique these articles from different points of views and decide to adopt one of these studies as a point of reference on which our research within our dissertation will be based. Uopn taking the ''Critical Thinking' workshop, I realised that there is a gap between my current knowledge and current way of thinking and the desired goals by my MA programme at the University of Warwick. Thus, I decided to take the next coming points of action as future orientations for my personal ans professional development.

1- First, while reading my dissertation articles, I will bear in mind to investigate the researcher bias, reliability of the study, and how the method of research was conducted.

2-Next, in order to assess my initial hypothesis, I would follow a three-phase plan to prove or disprove it. This plan involves, assessing points in favour and against, presenting challenging arguments in an unbiased way, and prove or refute articles and studies at hand.

3- Instead of taking the study results at face value, I will follow up a list of inquiries to make me better understand the context and validity of research. These questions involve in a non-linear way, knowing the size of the sample, and how the data was obtained, who is the researcher and his or her bias, and how the data was collected and analysed.

4- The last future action I will pursue a filtering approach towards jounal articles that would enable me to select, choose, and reject any article that is not within the focus of my research. By doing this, I will not only improve my academic skills, but also I will save great time and accomplish a focused study and refined research skills.

I cannot wait to see how applying these will affect my studies.


May 15, 2011

Probing the Hidden Skills

                                                                       Effective Learning Strategies

Since my dissertation deadlines are drawing closer, I decided to take this workshop to optimally use study skills in my research. During my last project which involved a lot of work and research, I read so much that I ended up unfocused when it came to putting down my finding on paper. One reason for that is that the lack of right harness of learning strategies in the right place.

Therefore, this workshop helped my learn about myself first and then decide on an action plan taking my Strengths and Weakness points as my launching pad for imroved and efficient learning according to SWAT scale. This action plan has the following points:

1- On a VARK scale, I came out as a very Aural/Oral learner because I prefer to listen and discuss learning. Hence, I will set up a small study group and meet regularly and discuss our learning plans and progress.

2- However, the best learning does not occur because of utilising our best abilities, it also involves improving the latent ones. I discovered a serious problem in my Visual abilities. Therefore, I will try as much as possible to read maps, diagrams, and flowsharts and even use them in my study notes in order to employ the two spheres in the brain. Flanagan suggests that we remember by reading, hearing, saying and mostly by doing new things that we learn.

3-It is not sufficient to just learn new things, but it is also important to memorise them. Studies show a downward diagram showing a decrease in the amount of information we remember as time progresses. The best way to counter this tendenacy is to Externalise the information that we learn in the sense that we learn for the sake of teaching the new information. As a result, we will be involved in a deep process of learning that will lead to a more profound memorisation of new information. The second thing to counter gradual forgetting of new information is to check regularly for how much we still hold of this information over time span and keep refreshing our memory during regular intervals.

4- Another strategy I intend to employ in my dissertation research is to use Cognitive and Metacognitive skills. Examples of these skills could be, using mnemoniics, organising and managing the learning process, and taking regular breaks. The most immense problem I have had was dragging myself to the right state of mind in order to start study. Therefore, an organised learning plan alongside appropriate employment of learning skills, and repetitive breaks will give me confidence and rejuvinate my state-of-mind to start working and researching.


May 03, 2011

Note–Taking: A Cross–Curricular Skill

Follow-up to Operationalising Note–Taking techniques from Sam's blog

                                                        Note-Taking: A Cross-Curricular Skill

The optimum use of note-taking in my study made me revamp a new academic skill that is essential to University study. In addition, this skill is a cross-curricular one that can be used in almost all subjects and it leads to broadening the horizons and increasing one's capacity. As a result of using it,

1- I had well-organised essays that helped me to keep a clear line of argument because of my assorted notes.

2- Instead of 'copy-paste' the notes, I started to rephrase the notes taken using my own language and I did my notes under particular titles.

3- Another positive result of note-taking enabled me to work effeciently as my reading speed increased immensly and led to accomplishing more and getting a feeling of achievement by the end of the day.

4- Although I was able to read more, I encountered a serious problem. I had an Academic Indigestion because the reading amount was enormous when I wanted to start writing. In other words, I felt that I over-read for my assignments which is something completely new for me. Therefore, I made an essay outline and followed only the needed notes to finish my assignment.

5- Editing has never been easier and more exciting because I can now enjoy reading my organised essay and proo-read it easily. 

To wrap up, I bore the fruits of my efforts in note-taking to the extent that my tutors gave me brilliant feedback on my assignment and I got distinction in two of them. Their main positive comment was haveing a clear and well-organised line of argument. That was completely due to my polished ability and newly-acquired skills in note-taking.

I would strongly recommend that all students take this extremely-useful course that will stand them in good stead.


May 2011

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  • I would like to thank you for your invaluable support throughout the whole learning process, too. So… by on this entry
  • Hi Sam, Thank you for your final entry to the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award. You have successfully … by Han-na Cha on this entry
  • Hi Sam, This is a really powerful reflective account on how you have taken a risk with learning some… by Han-na Cha on this entry
  • Hi Sam, These are good action points and I'm looking forward to reading updates on them. For no. 3 t… by Han-na Cha on this entry
  • I really wish you the best of luck with the PhD scholarship. I think you comments are extremely posi… by Austin Griffiths on this entry

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