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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!

Sam.


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.

SAM.


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