December 16, 2011

First Entry on Introduction to Academic Writing at Masters Level

Tutor: Laura Davies

The workshop was primarily for those Postgraduate Students who had not had any British Education Academic Writing experience, including myself.

At first, after introducing the stages of academic writing, the tutor explained the approach that should be taken in every academic analysis (critical and evaluative) as well as demonstrated the typology of questions in academic essays.

Moreover, she gave us step-by-step tips on how the widely accepted 'correct' way to conduct academic written analysis is (Brainstorming, structure of writing, introduction, paragraphs, conclusion). A few evaluating exercises falicitated our further understanding.

Furthermore, she defined many often confused terms, such as quotations, citations, paraphrasing and plagiarism. Her advice on style, language and terminology that we should prefer or avoid turned out to be extremely valuable.

I am overall very happy with what I have gained from this workshop as the information I received, respond perfectly to my needs.

ACTION POINTS:

1. Having almost finished my assignment, I will initially apply the tips that the tutor has given us on the vocabulary that should be avoided; in specific, I intend to replace the word 'interesting' because it seems quite informal.

2. I will re-read my conclusion and make necessary changes according to what I have learnt (i.e. giving a wider perspective to what has been argued)

3. I will stick to the same structured procedure of academic writing as it seems to me safe, logical and less stressful.


November 17, 2011

First Entry on Developing Your Critical Thinking at Masters Level

Tutor: Austin Griffiths

Date: 8 November 2011

The workshop began with an introduction to the concept of critical thinking and why it is such an essential skill when it comes to academic writing. After a short discussion, we came to the conclusion that there is no difference between undergraduate and postgraduate critical thinking. The only difference lies within the fact that undergraduate studies are more structured, whereas postgraduate ones require a more thorough individual research and motivation.

The basic topics covered by the workshop were:

  • Questioning and Hypothesis
  • Arguments and Issues
  • Assessing Journal Texts

The first exercise that we were assigned was to write down in papers words that would illustrate what do we like/dislike about ourselves, why do we think others like/dislike about us. Then, we were supposed to pick a hypothesis and justify it based on the data given, which we had to critically analyze them as to if they wereBias or reliable, and which methods were used.

Secondly, we examined the case of The Queen Vs. Dudley and Stephens, from which we were to summarise the moral issues that arose (Murder, Cannibalism, Consent, Utilitarianism, Sanity) and analyse them in accordance to the potential decisions of the court(guilty, not guilty, guilty but, not guilty but).

Finally, we were taught how to filter surveys' data and findings. The survey conducted was onself-esteem of pupils in schools for social, emotional and behavioural difficulties: myth and reality (Swinson 2007) Picking one of the two methods used, we were asked to comment on any bias, reliability/validity and methodology, identifying strenghts and weaknesses.

The workshop was highly challenging for me as, having completed my undergraduate studies in a different educational system (Greece), I had never been taught how to apply critical thinking on my academic writing. Although I probably should have attended the "introduction to critical thinking" workshop to gain a spherical knowledge on the matter, I found this one extremely valuable.

ACTION POINTS:

1. To filter information I read in Journals- not to take any conclusion reached as a fact

2. To apply the methodology mentioned above when it comes to justifying a hypothesis in my academic writing

3. Pay specific attention to the sample used in any research conducted. It is likely that the sample is not representative of the population for many reasons. In some cases, the conclusion reached might me invalid.


November 10, 2011

First Entry on Effective Seminar Participation P5m

This workshop was such a surprise! Even though it was 3 hours long and on a Monday evening, I did not even realise where the time had gone. The tutor, Bev Walshe, was absolutely fantastic. Direct, humourous, expressive; there was no way anyone could get bored during this workshop.

At first, she let us socialize in a free way so that we had to know something special about the new people we were supposed to get to know with (e.g. Antonio is a professional guitarist).

Secondly, she introduced us to the concept of body language, giving vibrant examples and letting us comment on each case. I never thought that I could actually pass so many messages, subconsiously or not, via my body language.

Thirdly, she showed us how to be and look confident using our moves and voice. As she said, it doesn't matter if we are small in size. We can raise our voice, and make our presence obvious.

This was the point when I started thinking... "what do all of these things have to do with seminar participation?"

However, my concerns were eliminated by the excercise that we were assigned. We had to form couples, read a small presentation and try to come up with effective ways of presenting the information given to us in an effective way, according to what we have been taught before. We had to make sure we keep our "audience" interested, and provoke their thought. That is why she seperated us in two groups - the one consisted of people who were to present their topics in a "round table" and the other consisting of the observers. The observers' role was very important because they monitored if the presentors were actually effective, as well as the audience's reactions.

At this point, Bev told us that what makes a seminar effective is not only the presentor but also the people in the auduence. They have to look interested and using their face expression, they have to encourage the presentor to perform with confidence.

This was indeed the most useful and interesting workshop I have ever been to, and that is probably thanks to Bev Walshe.

Action Points:

1. I will always try to keep my hands off my pockets whenever I present something otherwise that could imply that I am in an awkward position

2. I will always look any person that present their ideas, in the eyes and try to encourage them with my face expression

3. I will gain confidence inside of me, when making a presentation, so that the people listening to me become interested as well


November 02, 2011

Initial action points for reading and note making

Follow-up to First entry on Reading and Note–making from Chrisa's blog

1. Start using the Cornell method for Note Making

2. Practice on skim reading, as it seems very practical

3. Try to manage my time more effectively, when it comes to reading


October 30, 2011

First entry on Reading and Note–making

Summarizing what has been said and done in this workshop:

  • We were initially separated in groups, so it was mainly interactive, group work-based
  • We introduced ourselves and each group presented the difficulties we usually have during reading and notemaking
  • After trying to define various reading and note-making techiniques (skimming, scanning, mindmap, Cornell ect), the tutor gave us information on how those techniques actually work and we discussed what would probably be suitable for each of us
  • We had further discussion on how we could manage our time effectively using different types of reading and note-making

At first I didn't think I would earn much from this workshop, but having been introduced to the Cornell method, I am definitely going to adopt it. I am overall very satisfied with the workshop, the tutor's performance, as well as the group communication.


October 23, 2011

Follow–up on An introduction to skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio

Heres a summary of how I’ve been getting on with my action points

  1. Start reflecting on my previous experiences in order to avoid future mistakes and make the correct decisions

    I remember myself being unable to co-operate with different people in a group, which resulted in havening a crucial impact in my social behaviour as well as in my grades during my undergraduate course. I have now realised that I should respect and consider thoroughly all people’s thoughts which has already helped me in my group work in my masters course.


  2. Commit myself into developing my academic and professional skills by attending more workshops

    I have already attended two workshops and booked places for two others during this term


  3. Further develop my self-awareness in order to be able to recognise and confront my weaknesses

    I have found out that my note-making skills are not efficient, and having attended the note-making workshop I decided to start using the Cornell method of taking notes.



October 14, 2011

First entry on An introduction to skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio

Workshop Tutor: Samena Rashid

Introduction

At the beginning of the Workshop we introduced ourselves in an interactive way, as we got to know the person next to us and we presented each other afterwards.

Summarizing what was presented during the Workshop, we got to an initial understanding of the term “reflections”, by depicting what that term means for each of us, as well as discussing why reflecting on our previous experiences is so important to our future decisions. Reflection, therefore, involves:

  • standing back and analysing an experience
  • making sense of it
  • making judgements and drawing conclusions
  • deciding whether and what we might do differentely if we were to repeat the experience

Similarly, we came to a conclusion that reflection is important because:

  • it helps you not to repeat your mistakes
  • it helps you to improve yourself
  • you can reflect and judge previous experiences
  • you can view aspects as a case study of life
  • it can be seen as an ongoing exprerience

Furthermore, we came up with the appropriate ways to develop reflective thinking:

  • memos/diaries
  • blogs
  • feedback from others
  • self-assessment questionnaire

Later on, we talked about different learning styles and skills, with a specific reference to Neil D. Fleming’s VARK model. According to the later, there are four senses for learning information; the visual, the auditory, the “read/write” and the kinesthetic one. Accordingly, Fleming also introduced the four learning styles; the activist, the reflector, the theorist and the pragmatist. Based on the model mentioned above, we filled in a questionnaire to decide in which of those categories we belong, what are our strengths when it comes to studying and decision making, as well as our weaknesses. After that, everyone of us spoke of our weak points and thought about ways of improving ourselves, by reading tips on a booklet that was distributed to us.

Lastly, we came up with various definitions of the term “skill”. In short, skill is an ability that is developed throughout obtaining knowledge and practice on a certain area, which helps you perform well in various tasks. At the end of the workshop, we answered a “skills questionnaire” in order to figure out which are our strengths and weaknesses regarding our academic skills, and received information on how we could improve by attending more workshops.

My initial thoughts and feelings while attending the workshop were quite mixed. At first I did not realize what was the point of drawing in groups the term “reflection”. But when I saw the enormous pluralism of ideas and thoughts that prevailed, made me appreciate and understand completely the concept of this method. Moreover, I had the chance to feel more socially confident as I conducted group work even if it was only a little with people I have never met before.

As far as the “40-item learning styles questionnaire” is concerned, by answering it, I explored aspects of myself that I had never thought about before. I could find myself in all of those 4 categories (activist, reflectionist, theorist, pragmatist) and, even though at first I felt quite puzzled, I then understood that this is a great thing because I can have many different learning styles. For instance, I enjoy both theoretical analysis and practice when it comes to obtaining knowledge. I don’ t restrain myself in one learning style, and I try to adjust in accordance to the situations that may arise. However, I gained extremely useful tips on how to ameliorate myself.

As regards the last questionnaire, I found out that my oral communication, networking, self-promotion, critical thinking, academic writing, reading and notemaking as well as my numeracy skills require further development and for this reason I’m confident that the workshops to come are definitely going to contribute to that.

Overall, I am fairly satisfied with what I have gained from the workshop, since it has already positively affected my way of thinking and has boosted my confidence. I also realised that even if I don’t win the portfolio award, my whole improvement will worth a lot more than the award itself.

Actions

  1. Start reflecting on my previous experiences in order to avoid future mistakes and make the correct decisions

  2. Commit myself into developing my academic and professional skills by attending more workshops

  3. Further develop my self-awareness in order to be able to recognise and confront my weaknesses

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills/masters/what_we_offer/workshops/ppd/p1/blog


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