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July 05, 2011
Warwick Skills Portfolio
Final Blog Entry
Tutor: Han-Na Cha
Learning is a complex process that follows an epistemological dynamic perspective that does not follow a presupposed positivist agenda about the best recipe for optimum learning. It takes the individual as a unique case that is in direct contact with constantly changeable factors such as the environment including the significant others’ support as well as colleagues and genetic considerations. The power of the Warwick skills portfolio programme is that it follows a systematic approach to learning that takes all these factors into considerations, builds bridges between them, and develops new ones into one integrated system. This paper proffers a brief discussion of these factors with a short reflection of their benefit on the personal level.
1- Within the learning process, each individual interacts with the surrounding environment in a certain way that could benefit or damage the learning process. Therefore, if each individual is made aware of their own preferred learning styles, this might help them hone the previously owned one as a result of inherent talent or nurtured ability while growing up. For example, because I have been listening to songs in different languages since I was a kid, I gained the ability to imitate different voices and understand fully while engaged in a discussion without knowing other learning styles. Hence, I learned not only to develop my listening skills but also to develop new ones manifested in reading flow charts and diagrams. This skill aides individuals improving coordinating the work between the two semi-hemispheres of the brain and maintains salubrious functioning of the brain neurons.
2- Many learners voice their complaints of having low levels of attention, especially cases of inordinate procrastination in which they do trivia matters at the expense of tasks that rank high on the scale of importance. Therefore, it is of vital importance to better know oneself in order to be able to apply a uniform self-discipline that makes maximum use of one’s capabilities and exploits our potentials to the fullest. For example, s tickable timetable that allowed me to prioritise my most persistent tasks at the top of my list without forgetting to perform the less-persistent ones which give a sense of achievement, remove throe burden off the mind-to-do list and boost self-confidence which takes me to my next point.
3- Varying the work routine has double effect on the individual’s motivation because it moves the person mindset from performing highly mental enjoyable tasks to monotonous tedious ones or vice versa. This alternating nature of different tasks develops different abilities at the same time and qualifies multi-disciplinary learners who are able to perform more than one tasks at a time while keeping a balance of averting missing out important issues as mentioned in the previous step. For example, I would move from reading, analyzing, and researching for a long time into less mentally-demanding tasks such as responding to e-mails or organising notes or more enjoyable tasks like practicing my Spanish. Another example could be implied in following a reward system wherein have self-initiated incentive that drives them to work efficiently in order to fulfill other needs such as catching up with friends or doing some spot.
4- One of the most important stages of learning is learning to have a reflective mood on different subject matters. Many think that reflection is restricted to looking back at what a person had achieved with an evaluative or emotional perspective. However, reflection means keeping a researcher log in which he or she can shed a light on their different stages of learning and raises their awareness of the various levels of their development they have been through. Subsequently, this procedure will make them realise and better comprehend how they have changed and evolved as individuals and professionals which will lead to the focal goal of reflection. This is embodied in projecting these achievements on future performances and build on previous ones rather than ignoring them.
5- In addition to learning, organinsing, and reflecting, an added bonus comes self-evident with changing attitudes and orientation. Instead of seeking extrinsic rewards such as grades or better job opportunities, learners start to develop a learning orientation that is crystallised through reaching a mindset that engrosses learners in profound enjoyment and appetite for learning that superseded all external and ephemeral rewards when compared with the intrinsic benefits. In other words, learners will learn for the mere goal of learning and enjoyment. Thus, they will have elevated levels of confidence, conscientiousness, and appreciations of learning and developing themselves on both the personal and the professional levels. As a result, collateral extrinsic rewards will emerge as an unexpected windfall resulting from this learning orientation. For example, although I started attending different workshops within Warwick Portfolio Awards for the certificate, I developed writing presentation, speech, organinsing, typing and critical thinking skills among many others. These skills are cross-curricular that applies to different domains of learning and for the work life too which takes me to the next point.
6- Academic life could be hugely different from real life jobs. Many fresh graduates express deep concern over embarking on this life as opposed to the one they have been used to for a substantially long time. As any new experience in life, being in a professional context demands new interpersonal and professional skills which are initiated by the individual himself or herself and interact with the surrounding milieu. However, before that these individuals must prove they possess the potentials needed by their employees to pass the first obstacle during job interviews. Therefore, knowing one’s potentials and underscoring them better acquaint the employees with these and most importantly allow the individual to choose the appropriate job to make efficient use of these skills. For example, by discovering my strengths and weaknesses, I can perform better self-promotion now and explain it to my prospect job employers in order to facilitate their choice of the most appropriate job for me. My friend and I were considered as early innovators because we bring enthusiasm and creativity to the working environment in addition to being multi-disciplinary and fast learners. However, enthusiasm by itself is not sufficient without economic study, plausibility and long term planning and application.
7- The last personal skill has major influence over the way learners behave and react in a correspondent way in different situations. This last skill makes use of the influence of body language and face gestures on outcomes in different settings. For example, entering a room with a big smile, standing in a fully-relaxed posture facing your audience, and sitting with your hands on display on that table. Although all of the aforementioned might seem self-evident and simple to apply, but their effects can have a major influence on our relationships and our future evaluation by others. For instance, keeping eye contact and using follow-up phrases like ‘’uhm-yeah-aha’’ not only ensures that you have better communication with the other person but they also show that you are an attentive nimble-minded person who can alienate differences with others from different opinions.
To summarise, the Warwick skills Portfolio workshops has changed my perspective on learning in various ways. Now, I adopt a learning orientation, know my weaknesses and strengths, capitalise on my fortes and develop new skills, make use of body language, appreciate team work, organise my schedule, and believe in the power of theories and reflection to advance my career and my personal development. In addition, I can use these new acquired skills and transfer it to my colleagues and students back home.
June 30, 2011
Revamping my Learning Skills
Since I have become more aware of the strenghts and weaknesses implied in my learning styles, I embarked on a process of improving the ones that I already have and developing new ones. In order to do so, I adopted a realistic action plan consisting of three points in order for it to have far-reaching effects rather than ephemeral ones. Knowing that I am a very auditory learner who benefits from hearing and externalising ideas, a pragmatist learner who wants only the desirable results, and a theiry-alienated learner who doesn't adopt theories or frameworks to apply in real life, I applied the following steps.
1- I have completely benefited from applying the active-listening technique on both the professional and the personal lever. I have conducted so far six qualitative interview within each I managed to train myself not only to follow my own agenda in getting what I want, but also to know what the other person perspective is. Therefore, instead os holding a paper asking questions related to my research topic, I was listening actively to the other person playing-back what thay had said. Exactly like a tennis game they serve and I return the ball to this court. This was done by maintaining an open-hand gesture as opposed to corrsing my hands while listening, maintaining an eye-contact, and doing repetition and asking for clarification. This has given a profound dimension to my interviews and gave the interviewees the impression how important and how valused their opinions are. Not to mention, that I had the confidence of the other person while all of them said that thay had lost track of time and even thoroughly enjoyed the interviews. Applying active listening has helped me grow professionally as a researcher and earned me respect of the respondents and friendship of many of them as they are real persons and not subjects in an experiments. I can say that this technique was the most rewarding one! This takes me to my second point:
2- Because I have never believed of adoting theories and theoretical backgrounds to my real life, I decided to directly connect these to real life. Therefore, I deved into qualitative research books and suddenly I had an epiphany, a plan of what to do, and a way of doing it. I reas very well the pronciples of conducting interviews, research methodologies and people's expected reactions and feelings! For the forst time in my life, I was able to apply my note-taking and organisation skills to draft a plan while I was reading. Then, I refined this plan and made use of my peer-feedback and team working skills to get my friends feedback on my semi-structured interviews. Although I got very harsh criticism, I didn't mind because I knew that it was honest and came for my best interest. Honestly, at some times I am scared of my ability to elicit all this information and personal details wspecially that I started applying this on my acquaintances and friends. However, I realised that this is maybe due to my enjoyment in using a new skill and my awareness that now I can take written theories that I had a static perspective on and apply a kinaesthetic practical application for these in my real life in a systematic way which takes me to the last point.
3- For me, applying this pooint was the last difficult because not only did I have to make a fixed schedule, but I also had to stick to it. However, I found later that I don't need to apply things in a specific order, but I would better do things according to the mindset that I had in the sense I would do the tasks that I feel more like doing. Thus, the result was having a schedule that made me more committed and taught me how to better prioritise things in order of importance and I continused setting out close goals, breaking out huge tasks into smaller ones, and do very monotonous tasks on stages bby varying my learning styles. As a result, I found myself achieving my goals gradually, but with less pressure and more effieciency. For example, I say to myself well I have an interview today so I will read at least this article before the interview and transcribe part of the previous one so I don't get burnt out. On some days, I feel like doing nothing, so I take a very long break bearing in mind to do even part of the highly persistent task on this day.
I guess in the end putting all these three points in action empowered me and gave me more confidence in making the right choices and trusting my own abilities whil I have better awareness and knowledge while I am applying these.
June 19, 2011
Unearthing Learning Preferences
In order to make an efficient use of our learning, we should be able to determine the ways we can utilise these learning styles to the maximum. Therefore, we should not only hone these styles in isolation of others, but it is also incumbent that we develop that latent styles that we do not pay much attention to in most cases. By taking the forty items in the Honey learning styles questionnaires, I have come up as an extremely Activist and Pragmatist with corresponding nine and ten out of ten scores. Thus, I felt the need to develop the other learning styles categories, namely Theorist and Reflector or what other researchers prefer to call them ''Thinking'' styles as opposed to ''Doing'' styles.
After careful understanding of my forte points, I realised the importance to develop the other styles which were relevant to my current environmental demands within my MA study at Warwick University. I found out that I have a tendency to do things only when I see a direct application for them in real life. In addition, my enthusiasm to put ideas forward prevented me from paying attention to other people's points of views which left a gap in my knowledge as well as my social capabilities. Not to mention that I do not have a systematic way of performing an organised schedule or organising my priorities. Having realised these gaps in my knowledge and bearing in mind that gradual and focused improvement has positive impact on a person's development, I devised these three action points for my subsequent future development:
1- Because I decided to collect qualitative data for my dissertation through interviews, I will focus on developing my listening skills to get the best interactive results from the other part. I am intending to do so by applying the Active Listening technique in which we maintain eye contact, check understanding, and interact to the other person's message rather than following our own agenda in speaking. This would guarantee optimum exchange of information and engage the other interactant fully in a natural way.
2- Adopting courses of action because of their apparent applicability in real life is a useful starting point, but lacks the critical thinking that would scratch under the surface to find the underpinning theories behind these frameworks. Furthermore, they ensure a better understanding of the way they things function. Therefore, I decided to link the theories I am learning to real-world practice in order to givea purposeful meaning to the act of reading. By doing so, I will have linked theory with practice and even gained a better understanding of the plausibility of these theories in the real world. In addition, I will have acquired a learning-oriented perspective as opposed to a performance-oriented one.
3- Due to hectic study schedules and deadlines, I have always depended on my hunch and what I called ''Creative Chaos'' to achieve my goals. However, this method has not always been helpful because I have fallen short of achieving all my goals consistently without dropping one or two objective along the way. Therefore, I decided to impose a certain type of self-discipline on my studying habits in order to allocate equal time to diversed tasks and academic requirements. In addition, I will prioritise my work on tasks in a systematic way that pushes forward the most persistent demands to the front in a way that could enable me to put my mind at ease once my first on the list is dealt with. Moreover, this proioritising would protect me from procrastination from focusing on the ''Here and Now'' ot short-lived tasks rather than focusing on the long-term improvement ones.