All entries for May 2012

May 28, 2012

Further Follow up on an Introduction to Academic Writing at Masters Level

Here's a summary of how I've been getting on with my action points

1. I will remember to remain passive in my writing style to display an evaluative and critical approach to my arguments in essays.

I continue to make a conscious effort to remain passive in my writing style as previously discussed. Therefore, I'm now moving my attention to remaining active and engaging in my critical thinking as I move into writing my dissertation. As this is the first extended piece of writing I have done at 15,000 words and more than just a critical literature review or practical lab write up, I'm also paying careful attention to the structure of such work. Utilising chapters and case studies to break the work down into manageable sections. I'm also looking to further my understanding by joining workshops on 'reading and note-making at Masters level' and lectures on dissertation writing for Masters.

2. I will include more precise, articulate language and avoid vague, broad vocabulary such as 'interesting' and 'good' to maintain an accurate and concise academic style.

By making the conscious effort to avoid broad wide sweeping statements and vocabulary I hope this will continue to encourage a deeper, critical understanding and appraisal in my work. This has also helped me to open up new and original lines of enquiry which I can pursue as I ask more questions of the data and understand the interrelations which will shape the direction of my dissertation on Vaccines.

3. I will try to critically re-read and revise work if necessary and include a wider perspective or purpose for the work in my conclusions.

By managing my time effectively, I hope to be able to complete initial drafts of sections of my dissertation and take the time to critically re-read and revise where necessary. I also have further written module assessments due in the next couple of months, so maintaining this work effort in parallel will be a priority of mine. The use of wider concluding perspectives, as previously discussed, has also been of benefit to my understanding and learning as relating the context of my work to real world, wider implications, highlights and solidifies the importance of such work in my mind.

Further Follow up on Working in a Team

Here's a summary of how I'm getting on with my action points

1. Try not to avoid my least preferred roles ('implementer' and 'specialist') and improve on them by working closely with these kinds of team members, in order to learn from them and make these roles more manageable.

From my academic group work so far, one of the roles which I have noticed is often most neglected is the monitor evaluator. There are always plenty of co-ordinators or leaders willing to direct team work and a general group drive to get on with the tasks set. However, on one occasion rushing into the tasks set meant an area of the presentation we were to cover was missed. Luckily, after taking a step back and evaluating the work we had done so far with the guidelines set, we realised and corrected the hole in our presentation and avoided the problem noted in other group presentations. Although some of the information we were expected to find, concerning specific drug upstream and downstream manufacturing and clinical trial development was difficult to find due to market sensitivity, we were still expecting to generalise instead of avoid these areas. Therefore by re-evaluating what we had done with the tasks given as part of a monitor evaluator role, we avoided missing details some other groups were penalised for.

2. Continue to emphasise my strengths in team work by co-ordinating, promoting discussion and exploring multiple opportunities.

As a co-ordinator, naturally associated with leadership, I enjoy stepping into this role and as previously discussed joined the Warwick Leadership scheme to further develop this attribute. As there are a lot of large personalities on my course it is often not necessary to single out a leader in particular. However, if I'm part of a group with less dominant or driven personalities I like to encourage discussion and bring out the best contributions from everyone in the group. Understanding the roles which relate to the Belbin's theroy has definitely helped to at least begin to delegate work more efficiently, such as give the 'completer finishers' the job of proof reading the final seminar slides and letting the 'plants' generate our ideas. Whereas 'co-ordinators' like myself and 'monitor evaluators' take a step back to keep the bigger picture in mind. In my most recent group work, we decided to split the slide requirements equally so each person generated 5 slides related to the area of the topic we each volunteered for. This was probably the best example of delegation that worked well and again as co-ordinator I volunteered to integrate and format our final slides. This approach however does require trust in the other group members to complete their contributions on time and to a good standard, but as we picked teams and were already close friends, this is much easier to do than working with a group of new people. This approach also helps to encourage ownership and responsibility for completing the work delegated on time and to a good standard and this was proved as we scored a distinction.

3. Understand that I will not get on with everyone or understand their methods but accept these so called 'allowable weaknesses' in order for the team to be happy and productive.

Fortunately, since my second assignment, I have not had many other experiences of tension within a group. I know as I prefer to be a 'team player' that I clash with 'shapers' who are not afraid to step on people's toes to get things done. Nonetheless, as a discussion raised in Leadership scheme highlighted, is labelling people under such roles discussed in the Belbin theory really beneficial? Of course at first it can seem restrictive to operate under certain labels, however the understanding of these roles has for myself and many on the Leadership scheme, served as a 'framework' to understand the working styles of different people and resulted in better delegation of work and happier more productive working environments. Of course, some people still need 'pushing' or more motivation to complete their work on time due to their preferred last minute working style, but by sticking to agreed deadlines, this has helped to avoid the tension and stress this can cause among more organised individuals in my group work teams.

May 14, 2012

Final Entry on the Leadership Scheme

Final Presentation & Thoughts

The final presentation night was a really valuable opportunity to gain a further and final insight into the thoughts of the other group members about the Leadership scheme and round the experience as a whole. Introducing ourselves, our background and why we wanted to join the course. Followed by what we learned and what action points we will take with us into the future.

Studying for an MSc in Biotechnology, Bioprocessing and Business Management I wanted to demonstrate application of the skills employers value. This is the reason I decided to take part in the Warwick skills portfolio award and naturally the Leadership scheme as a further opportunity to make the most out of my time here at Warwick University.

My Project

As an elected member of the PGSSLC representing the views of the students on my postgraduate course, it is my responsibility along with two other students to encourage our class mates to bring forward issues about the course that concern them and then forward these to the relevant staff in order to improve the overall student experience. Therefore, from attending the scheme I hoped to understand what type of leadership style suits me, and the best approaches for getting the most out of the people I represent.

What I learned about Leadership

As highlighted in my presentation and many of the others, Leadership works on a continuum. Different circumstances call for different styles of leadership from authoritarian, autocratic leadership, which involves little democratic decision making, important in military roles and positions which hold responsibility for the safety of others, such as my ski instructing experience, where the leader is the most informed to make the best decision. Through to the democratic and delegative, laissez-faire leadership which is often best suited to academic group work and involvement of everyone as a whole. The personality type indicators were also an area of the scheme which attracted a lot of interest. There was discussion of how accurate these tests were and whether labelling ourselves was conducive to leadership and group work or restrictive.

In my opinion, of course answering a set of questions in a way in which you wish to be portrayed will return answers that you expect, but an honest as possible reflection will return an insight or 'framework' that you can base your understanding around and develop the strengths and weaknesses which make up the skill sets within group work. As a co-ordinator and team worker, these are characteristic that naturally reflects the common perception of leadership and as a resource investigator, it justifies my reasons for pursuing courses such as the leadership scheme. Understanding the different types of preferred working styles also helped me to ease the tension between individuals I clash with in groups and improved the efficiency and delegation of work.

As a leader I would like to be:

Understanding and show empathy to others. Take the time to get to know people in order to draw the best out of them. Be inspiring, warm and strong minded and decisive when needed. Basing decisions on principles, system, overall impacts and rational assessment of outcomes. Plus, strive for harmony and a supportive environment where followers know I respect their values.

In order to achieve this, listening, focus and managing expectations are some of the most valuable advice I would pass on from the guest speakers we had and take forward into the future.

Project Development

To encourage the participation of even the most quiet students in the discussion of course concerns, we set up a facebook page and promoted the use of anonymous feedback forms. Plus, by being more proactive and engaging on the facebook page and in class, I helped to promote better discussion and confidence in ourselves as representative to the point where students were happy to have written their own letters of concern to be forwarded through us as representatives. Overall, as a PGSSLC I wanted to make a difference, even if small, to improve the student experience for this year and next. As a result of our discussions and work, we helped to improve the feedback time for essays and seminars (if only a little) and most notably introduced a Pastoral Care Tutor, which will be appointed before the start of the 2012-2013 intake, as a direct result of feedback from our course students and the development of skills learned on this course.

Future Action Points

Looking back at my original action points:

  1. I would like to learn effective techniques to get the most out of even the most quiet people.
  2. I would like to implement the understanding of my preferred leadership style and Belbin roles to my continued academic group projects.
  3. To further my understanding and empathy with others I will try to spend more time with individuals with course concerns.

I believe I have been successful in addressing them and developing a leadership style which reflects how I would like to be portrayed. As one of the guest speakers advised, be happy and strive to become like the people you admire. Therefore, I will continue to be compassionate and empathise with others. Taking the time to listen and get to know people, in order to adapt effectively to the leadership challenges I will face, with the appropriate leadership styles developed and inspire to bring out the best in others.


May 05, 2012

Final Entry on Leading a Group Project

Original Action Points:

  1. Remember that leadership styles operate on a continuum and recognise when and where the most appropriate style is applicable and adapt accordingly.
  2. Remember to get to know group members or at least their preferred roles, experience or skill sets.
  3. Familiarise and understand the task before delegating and setting ground rules which must be achievable and realistic.

From the concepts introduced in this workshop and the Leadership scheme, I have developed a further understanding of what it means to be effective in different types of leadership roles. From my experience as a ski/snowboard instructor where leadership had to be very authoritarian to ensure the safety of the children I was teaching, through to the far more democratic and delegative leadership style required for effective academic group work. Leadership works on a continuum and leading a successful team requires the Tuckman's model of group formation, namely the forming, storming and norming needed to perform.

From this particular workshop, future action points I will continue to take forward include remembering to familiarise myself with group members to understand their preferred roles and familiarise myself with the tasks set - often the 'forming' and 'storming' parts of group work which are brushed aside to dive straight into the work. The management of expectations and setting of clear ground rules is also an important aspect raised, which can help to avoid conflict and tension within groups, and the ability to adapt leadership styles to suit the situation needed are some of the important points I have found most useful and will continue to apply with more detailed reflection to follow through my final leadership blog.

Final Entry on Effective Seminar Participation

Original Action Points:

  1. To remember not to allow my body to move too much when delivering presentations i.e. stop myself from swaying as this can communicate insecurity.
  2. To be definite in my presentation of information and questioning. Not be backed down to interruption or question my right to speak.
  3. To end clearly and present alternatives to the cliche 'are there any questions?' For example, 'I'm sure you have plenty you would like to contribute and I would be happy to hear this now.'

After finishing a busy second term, I've now had some time to reflect on the many seminar presentations I have been involved with. My delivery has continued to improve as demonstrated from feedback, which highlights the fluent and clear presentation of my material. Plus, I continue to make more of an effort to actively contribute to discussions, although this can sometimes be hard at the end of a long day.

Another lesson learned was the importance of a clear ending and I will continue to make conscious efforts to demonstrate this in my future seminar presentations. In future, I will also try to maintain a body language that portrays confidence, whilst also not being too static. I will continue to remain diplomatic in my choice of words and avoid falling back on phrases that could appear to question my right to speak, such as “I’m sorry but could you…”

I’m usually quite comfortable projecting my voice, but will remember to use pitch, pace and power (rhythm) to keep listeners engaged and portray my enthusiasm for the subject. I have found it much easier to do this by not scripting myself strictly, to avoid sounding like I am reading something out word for word. Instead, by learning the order of key points I want to get across, it allows my spoken language to remain more natural, aiding a fluent presentation style and also means I do not have to rely on notes.

Overall, this workshop helped to consolidate a lot of theory that was already familiar to me but was presented in an interesting and fresh approach that emphasised the importance of speech and posture. The key points I will take with me into future seminars include, a good posture, clear and definite delivery and remember to take responsibility for being active to engage and communicate confidence.     

May 03, 2012

Final Entry on An introduction to skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio

Original Action Points:

  1. To commit myself to completing the further workshops and applying what I learn to my everyday life.
  2. To apply the skills and techniques highlighted in situations outside my comfort zone and become more flexible and adaptable.
  3. To improve my self reflection by listening to feeback from others and use of structured self assessment.

On reflection, after an extremely busy second term, I still managed to commit myself to further workshops such as 'an Introduction to Academic Writing at Masters Level', 'Leading a Group Project' and most recently the Warwick Leadership scheme. The majority of workshops I found consolidated my knowledge and learning so far, such as the structure and presentation of writing highlighted in the 'Introduction to Academic Writing at Masters Level' workshop. But I also found some interesting and new ideas such as the Belbin theory and Myers-Briggs type indicators from the 'Working in a Team' and 'Leadership' program. These assessments I found accurately portrayed my preferred roles within a team and the leadership style which suits me best and furthered my understanding the most. Understanding of the different roles it is possible to play in group work helped me to identify with different working styles and provide reasons why as a co-ordinator, teamworker and resource investigator I might clash with strong shapers that provide drive and are not afraid to tread on people's toes doing so.

In terms of applying the skills and techniques highlighted in this workshop, I have continued to put my academic learning into context with the bigger picture, always relating the theory, for example recombinant DNA technology, to its purpose on industrial and even global scales. This has helped to prevent me from becoming disengaged from the relevance of learning such detail and something I have also added to help conclude my work as suggested in the 'Introduction to Academic Writing at Masters Level' workshop. In terms of becoming more flexible and adaptable, the knowledge gained from understanding the different preferred working styles has helped me to become more spontaneous and open to working in more flexible ways to encourage better working environments, especially with group members that prefer less structure (but still get the work done). I have also tried to pursue workshops and activities such as the Leadership scheme in order to demonstrate the application of skills employers value to benefit my future ambitions and relate the purpose of these workshops to my overall self development.

Finally, reflection on my feedback has also continued to improve my academics, especially in presentations where my feedback now comments on the fluent and clear presentation of material. I feel I have addressed the initial action points I set myself and I have been successful, however, if I were to do this again, I would keep up with more regular blogging, as this helps to provide valuable reflection. Nonetheless, I hope to continue to apply the principals learned, as I have done so far. And in my final term at Warwick, with a little bit more time on my hands, I now plan to finish the reflection and blogging required for the remaining workshops and complete the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award.


May 2012

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  • Dear Gwyn Thank you for your final entry, it has been a pleasure reading your blogs and it is great … by Samena Rashid on this entry
  • Thank you for this final blog. It's good to hear that you have been able to put much of what we cove… by on this entry
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