First entry on An introduction to skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio
Workshop Tutor: Samena Rashid
The workshop began with an informal exercise in which we introduced ourselves to someone completely new and gathered information about them to then present back to the class. Introducing someone new to the rest of the class was a quick challenge to highlight straight away many of the key inter-personal skills we need, such as communication and information gathering, to be successful in life.
Following this, we were then split into random groups to discuss the meaning of ‘reflection’ and explain what it means to each of us, presenting the individual or collective ideas on a poster. The majority of responses were similar in nature – presenting the idea that reflection is important in order to look back on events or ourselves in an effort to improve in future. Most posters presented a person looking at themselves in a metaphorical mirror that reflected what they hoped to become. This is a simple and effective way to illustrate a wide variety of ideas as well as the fact that reflection:
- is the ability to take a step back and look at yourself and your attributes in order to improve
- make sense of it
- judge and draw conclusions
- it helps not to repeat mistakes
- should be an ongoing process of continual development
The discussion then continued onto ways in which we can improve our own reflection through the use of memos/diaries/blogs, feedback from others and structured self assessment.
Other comments of interest to me included the fact that a mirror is honest, so our reflection should be honest. Plus, the most original idea that stood out to me illustrated reflection like building a bridge or railway track from two sides, in an effort to meet in the middle. Reflection should be the strive to reach the best of our abilities, in order to match our hopes with reality – like building a bridge from two sides that should meet in the middle. Of course, reflection is not just the process of looking back at ourselves or events that we could improve – it is also the ability to look back at our strengths and successes in order to maintain this progress in future.
The class then went on to look at a learning styles questionnaire in order to discover the learning habits which make us more productive, compared to other less familiar and less encouraging learning styles. From a list of statements which we either agreed or disagreed with, we generated results highlighting our prefered learning approaches as defined by Fleming’s VARK model – either an Activist, Reflector, Theorist or Pragmatist. The general consensus of the class was that the results were unexpected. Some scored very low as an Activist, like myself, or generated a fairly even spread of results. In presenting my results I explained that I agree far more strongly with the ideas of a Pragmatist that ‘like to see how things work in practice’ or a Theorist that ‘like to see how things fit into an overall pattern’ compared to Activists that ‘like to take direct action.’ However, although I may not agree with some of the statements that define an Activist, I realised I do try to emphasise important styles in my group activities and work that define an Activist, like:
- Thinking on my feet,
- Participating and having fun,
- Taking initiative.
I welcome new challenges and experiences but I am not less interested in putting things into a broader context and this section of the workshop is also designed to help develop and strengthen learning styles that we may lack.
The next exercise we were introduced to, in random groups, was to present our definition of the word ‘skill’. The general opinion was that this is an ability to achieve something at a level that is above average and seperate to a talent. Our group decided to described key words which can emcompass as many aspects as possible of the definition of a skill:
The last part of the workshop was a skills questionnaire to highlight which skills we thought we were strong at and which we thought were weak with room for improvement. In my case, I believe my work and area of study have helped me develop strong oral and written communication, strong academic writing, self management, team work and leadership. However, I believe there is always room for improvement, especially in areas such as my commerical awareness, flexibility/adaptability, critical thinking and networking.
Overall, I was fairly impressed with the structure and content of the workshop, although the group work and poster presentations got a little repetitive. I realised I’m fairly well rounded and already try to apply myself in areas I feel I need development. Therefore I look forward to completing the Warwick Skill Portfolio award and continuing my development in workshops such as effective seminar participation, career planning, effective learning strategies and critical thinking at masters level.
To commit myself to completing the further workshops and applying what I learn to my everyday life
To apply the skills and techniques highlighted in situations outside my comfort zone and become more flexible and adaptable
To improve my self reflection by listening to feedback from others and use of structured self assessment
To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills/masters/what_we_offer/workshops/ppd/p1/blog