All entries for August 2012
August 12, 2012
I decided to join the Warwick Skills Portfolio to make the most out of the opportunities available to me here at Warwick, as well as refresh my CV and demonstrate skills that employers value. The Introduction to the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award workshop affirmed the majority of my understanding and was exactly what I was expecting. As can be seen from initial action points back in October 2011 it was always my intention to complete the workshops required:
- 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 of 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.
As can be seen from the comments in my first blog I believe I already approached many of the workshops well rounded and always looking to apply myself in areas I feel the need to develop. Therefore to improve and refresh my academic capabilities I participated in the effective seminar participation, critical thinking and writing at masters level workshops. As well as, leading a group project and working in a team to demonstrate skills employers value. I would have also liked to attend the career planning and emotional awareness workshops however, despite a demanding academic year I believe I still managed to balance my time well and make the most of the workshops available to me as well as the blogging, even though my entries may have been spread very widely throughout the year.
Some workshops I gained a lot more than I expected, in particular the working in a team workshop was really interesting and engaging.
Taking the personality type indicator tests and learning about the Belbin theory framework was completely new to me and opened up a new area of understanding concerning group dynamics that I could relate to and apply to the large number of group work assignments I had throughout the year. Attending this workshop also led me into the Warwick Leadership scheme, a pilot scheme and something which I was clearly attracted to according to my Belbin preferred roles as a resource investigator and co-ordinator - naturally associated with leadership. I was also particular interested in the Leadership scheme, which although was separate to the Skills Portfolio Award offered a lot of overlap to the workshops I attended and really helped to consolidate what I learned.
Alongside the leadership scheme, working in a team and leading a group project workshops, I was also impressed with the engaging teaching provided in the effective seminar participation and learning exercises in the developing your critical thinking workshops. Although some of the information provided was already familiar to me, the greater detail the effective seminar participation workshop went into concerning maximising the perception of confidence with body language and taking responsibility for being active and engaging with strangers gave me plenty of points to take away and apply. The learning exercise of testing arguments by exploring different points of view in 'The Queen v Dudley and Stephens' case study as part of the critical thinking workshop was also a very good example of how to apply critical thinking and although confirmed the majority of my understanding it was an engaging way to remind me of the necessary skills at Masters level after being away from academics for a year as a ski instructor, during my gap year.
As mentioned, even though some of the aspects covered in the workshops may have been familiar, it was still important to me or portrayed in a new and engaging way that kept my interest. For example, working in a team and leading a group project may have overlapped a lot with the leadership scheme but each was an important part to my overall learning. I even attended the introduction to academic writing at masters level workshop just to refresh my understanding but still came away with new ideas such as adding a wider perspective or purpose for the work in my conclusions, which are valuable contributions to my work.
The blogging experience was also something new to me and although it was tedious at times to bring myself to do after long hours of lectures or group work I now understand and fully appreciate its importance in achieving the necessary self reflection which was one of my initial action points to improve from the very first workshop. Overall, I believe I have achieved or at least remained mindful of all of the action points I set myself for each workshop and could only have done this by blogging to remind myself and apply the learning to my experiences throughout the academic year.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the tutors involved in the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award and Leadership scheme for their time and efforts in preparing these workshops. The academic and careers skills workshops have been particularly valuable to me as such opportunities were not as openly available during my undergraduate studies. Plus, the opportunity to discuss and learn new perspectives from students from such diverse cultural and academic backgrounds has definitely helped to develop my maturity and become as well rounded as possible. I only wish I had the time and more importantly, the energy, to attend more workshops and blog about them.
To finish, I wish the University of Warwick and Skills Portfolio Team all the best for the future and hope it continues to inspire and develop its students.
MSc Biotechnology, Bioprocessing & Business Management
August 09, 2012
Original Action Points
- To increase the amount of material I read whilst balancing my time using the filtering techniques described.
- To not take data for granted as fact and try to critically engage with it, always asking why?
- To remember that there is always more than one side to any argument and this continuum is important to understand and can be applied to strengthen the position of my own arguments in work and life.
Having completed all the remaining written assignments for my other modules I can now focus my attentions on my dissertation. In doing so, the amount of material I read has increased and I always try to follow up articles cited within the articles I read, as long as I can add them to my reference list, highlighting the extended reading. Alongside this I continue to critically engage the points raised in the literature I read and believe I have addressed these initial action points well.
I have still yet to reach the chapter in my dissertation where I can go into greater detail about the different sides of the cost-benefit analysis which have to be considered when pursuing vaccine candidates however, I remain mindful of this action point and try to add such thoughts where appropriate, for example when considering the science behind the success of new vaccine design rationales.
Overall, this workshop was particularly interesting and engaging and I believe I have addressed all of my initial action points, or at least remained mindful of them and will continue to apply them as I finish writing my dissertation.
Original Action Points
- I will remember to remain passive in my writing style to display an evaluative and critical approach to my arguments in essays.
- 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.
- 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.
Attending this workshop helped to confirm the majority of my understanding concerning academic writing which was useful to me after taking a gap year away from any formal study or writing. In terms of my first original action point I have definitely been successful in remaining passive in my writing style and I'm continuing to work through and apply the learning from the Academic Writing programme webpages mentioned in the comments on the previous blog.
As I continue to write my dissertation, I'm paying careful attention to structure and the use of articulate language. Although I have 15,000 words to play with, introducing the immunology relevant to vaccinations for example, in a so called 'brief' review has already stretched to 2000 words, so I need to remain aware of word counts to balance the writing across all aspects of my dissertation - from introductions to conclusions. Avoiding broad wide sweeping statements is also something I always try to keep in mind when presenting my arguments as this definitely helps me to engage more critically with the work and articulate findings more precisely.
Having completed all of my other written module assignments I can now focus all of my attention onto my dissertation. In the remaining weeks I hope to complete a chapter per week, meaning that over the weekend I can spend time re-reading and revising the work if necessary. Finally, being mindful of the wider, real world perspectives and purpose of my research into vaccines has continued to help me draw effective conclusions in my work and is one of the more valuable points I gained from this workshop. Overall, the workshop and the reflection on my initial action points has been important to me, keeping me aware of what is expected and keeping my writing focused.
August 05, 2012
Original Action Points:
- Try not to avoid my least preferred roles ('implementer' and 'specilaist') 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.
- Continue to emphasis my strengths in team work by co-ordinating, promoting discussion and exploring multiple opportunities.
- 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.
This workshop alongside the leadership scheme have been extremely valuable to me. After experiencing a difficult second group work assignment at the beginning of my course, with individuals that I clashed with, learning and understanding about the different roles people prefer to adopt when working in a team has helped my understanding of group dynamics and ultimately helped me to ease group tensions. From the belbin profiles it's clear that I have many manageable roles I can 'flex' into to support a team, most notably the monitor evaluator as mentioned in my previous blog. Plus, by working closely with people that adopt my least preferred roles I understand that I do not need to be good at everything and trusting others to complete work to the same standard that I would is an important part of group work.
As a co-ordinator, I feel most comfortable managing the bigger picture or objective of group work and as a resource investigator I like to find time to explore opportunities the group discusses and those open to me such as the Warwick skills portfolio and leadership awards. Understanding this has definitely helped me to continue to emphasise these strengths as well as use the Belbin Theory as a framework to effectively understand others, delegating work more effectively and improving the overall efficiency of the group work I have been involved in as demonstrated in my previous blogs.
Finally, the understanding that I will not get on with everyone or like their preferred working style has helped to prevent me for taking responsibility and trying to finish everything a group produces to a standard or the 'way I like.' I have always tried to avoid this and the further understanding gained from this workshop has definitely helped to solidify this. Overall, I feel I have achieved all of my initial action points and gained a lot from this workshop.