All entries for November 2011
November 25, 2011
Workshop tutor: Trudy Hillier
This workshop focused on developing our thinking and understanding into the factors involved in successful team work. Beginning with a discussion into the key factors that contribute to a highly effective team, the main points raised included:
- Leadership - provides a drive and direction to the group in order to achieve its goals
- Communication & organisation - listening/contributing, time management and understanding individual strengths and allowable weaknesses.
- Diversity - fresh perspectives, new ideas/solutions
- Team players - support morale and tolerance
- Commitment - the motivation to complete objectives
In other words, team work involves "a group of people with complimentary skills, that work to achieve a goal, with mutual accountability."
Following this, we then went on to look at one of the key theories in relation to team development, Belbin's Theory.
The above image illustrates the 9 roles Belbin highlighted, from left to right they include:
- Plant (PL) - creative and imaginative
- Resource Investigator (RI) - extrovert, explores opportunities from other perspectives
- Co-ordinator (CO) - promotes team discussion
- Shaper (SH) - provides drive
- Monitor Evaluator (ME) - strategic and discerning
- Teamworker (TW) - Co-operative, diplomatic and averts friction
- Implementer (IMP) - Reliable, takes practical steps and actions
- Completer Finisher (CF) - Searches out errors and delivers on time.
- Specialist (SP) - provides knowledge and skills in rare supply
The Belbin profiles we generated from self perception surveys prepared before the workshop provided an opportunity for valuable reflection and discussion. From my profile I discovered, that my strengths or preferred roles lie as a 'co-ordinator' and 'resource investigator' and my least preferred roles are as an 'implementer' and 'specilaist.' I believe this was an incredibly accurate representation of myself and useful in understanding my manageable roles which I may have to 'flex' into in order to perform within a highly efficient group.
From this workshop my understanding of 'difficult' people I may have clashed with has been enhanced and often the most challenging and provocative people, liable to offend others are just 'shapers' that thrive on pressure and provide the drive to get work done.
- 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.
- 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.
November 13, 2011
Workshop tutor: Austin Griffiths
This workshop was very well structured and with interesting and engaging practical example of how to apply critical thinking. So why is critical thinking so important? Well it is considered the 'meta-skill' that underpins postgraduate study in the UK and we began by discussing within the group around our tables what we considered the main differences between undergraduate and postgraduate study. The main answers included:
- Undergraduate study is more structured with stricter guidelines and emphasis on what needs to be done to achieve a good mark compared to postgraduate where it is assumed you are competent students.
- Postgraduate has less 'spoon fed' or 'rope learned' material and you are required to take an active role in engaging and finding your own relevant reading material.
The three main areas covered by this workshop included:
- Questioning and Hypothesis
- Arguments and Issues
- Assessing Journal Texts
As a warm up exercise to generate data, which we could then apply the principles of critical thinking to, we created a list of words. Firstly, 10 words to describe ourselves, then 5 words to describe what you think other people like about you and 5 words to describe what you think other people don't like about you - Not the most scientific approach.
From this we then went on to question the data from two main angles, verification (Bias, Reliability/validity, Methods) and analysis. Some questions to interrogate data include:
Bias - was the data bias? - probably, because our opinion is subjective.
- Who can see the data? Will my girlfriend/boyfriend see or hear about this? - this can affect the answers you give, you might not want them to see everything..
- Did the order of the questions affect the answers? - if it began with 10 words to describe what you think is bad about yourself, would this put the survey in a negative perspective?
- Would the weather and time of day have made a difference to the answer? - last thing, late on a Thursday during a dark and cold winters evening. Would you be as motivated to answer?
- How big is the sample? - too small to draw generalised conclusions about Warwick students as a whole perhaps but this doesn't make the data less valuable. It can highlight interesting areas for further development.
- How can you be sure that the descriptions were honest?
- How was the data collected?
- Did the respondents understand the questions?
- Is the test consistent or is it enough to only do it once?
Then how can we analyse the data and make it tell us things?
- What proportion of positive words did people use to describe themselves?
- How do we define positive and negative?
- What proportion of responses describe physical appearance? etc
- Are Warwick University students modest?
From this thinking we then went on to decide on a hypothesis we would like to prove or disprove concerning students at Warwick University and we combined all our data so that we had more to work with.
A hypothesis also requires questioning:
- Analysis to come up with questions and ways to test the hypothesis
- Definitions and parameters - what is considered modest may have to be defined etc
These are the questions that illustrate that we are critically engaging with our data and it was an enjoyable exercise to demonstrate a key skill for postgraduate level study.
2. Arguments and Issues
The example of 'The Queen v Dudley and Stephens' was the next exercise we used to look at:
- the connection between arguments and issues.
- testing arguments by exploring different points of view.
- the idea that arguments are not simply for and against but operate on a continuum
This case became known as The Lifeboat Case and involved a group of men who committed a murder and cannibalisation of another young man in order to survive extreme circumstances. The key moral issues we raised included: 1) Murder 2) Cannibalism 3) Consent 4) Utilitarianism 5) Sanity.
From this, in groups, we then took one of these moral arguments and constructed a case for the men being guilty and guilty but.. in order to explore as many sides of the argument as possible. Followed by moving the poster presentations around to then construct arguments for the men being not-guilty and not-guilty but.. for another moral aspect. This exercise involved a violent but engaging case study that proved difficult to generate multiple opinions, for example - the fact remains that one man killed another prematurely (even though he may have been ill and dying) and the remaining survivors participated in cannibalism. But, it was done as a result of such incredibly pressured circumstances directly determining the men's survival, that their sanity and the utilitarianism of the actions could possibly outweigh the crimes despite a lack of any consent.
- The uncritical approach would have a single justified view - i.e. Murder is always wrong because it goes against the 10 commandments.
- The critical approach will see a range of arguments on a continuum.
This continuum is important because it allows us to question and test the strength of our own position and prepare a defence of our arguments having understood examples of different preferred viewpoints.
The final part of the workshop involved:
3) Assessing Journal Texts
Here we focused on filtering texts. As postgraduate students we deal with a body of literature so we need to be able to look at a large number of articles and decide which are most relevant to our study. The key filter elements include the 1) Abstract 2) Conclusions.
Looking at a handout of studies into self-esteem of pupils in schools for social, emotional and behavioural difficulties: myth and reality (Swinson 2007) we then critically engaged with the material applying what we had learnt from the previous exercises. Commenting on any bias, reliability/validity and methodology we generated strengths, weaknesses and questions we would like to ask about the data to summarise our learning.
This workshop will help to support my study by helping to challenge the quality of methods and data I find in my journal articles and help me to improve the quality of data I generate in my own research.
- To increase the amount of material I read whilst balancing my time by using the filtering techniques described.
- To not take data for granted as fact and try to critically engage with it, always ask 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.
November 10, 2011
Workshop tutor: Bev Walshe
This workshop encompassed 3 main areas:
- Body Language
From the beginning of the workshop the tutor highlighted the importance of our body language and the messages it sends out to others both consciously and subconsciously. This is the 'first impression' and to maximise the perception of confidence to others we should:
- Stand or sit up straight but not stiff with relaxed and ready to use arms and hands in order to gesture and liven your language, making you more engaging.
- Smile and make eye contact - fundamental.
- Try not to sway and move your body too much as this communicates insecurity - so sit back in your chair and hold a good posture.
From body language, you can then build on the communication of confidence. You must take responsibility and be active to encourage confidence:
- Engage with the 'strangers' you are going to be working with.
- Do not be afraid to make eye contact and maintain it, for example being interrupted and dropping eye contact effectively 'hands over' control to the person who interrupted you.
- Breathe using the whole of your chest which will allow you to speak clearly, slowly and project your voice more effectively.
The final area of interest is language and its comprehension and delivery - the way you say it. Use simple, direct language and deliver with a strong, clear projection. The volume should not drop at the end of sentences and the use of pitch, pace and power (rhythm) should be used to engage the listener. Do not make your listener work to understand you and to deliver effectively both in presentation and questioning:
- Avoid using words that question your right to speak - i.e. 'I'm sorry but...' 'I'm probably being...'
- Be definite - i.e. 'Could you clarify...' 'Would you repeat/go through...'
- Think about the language you use to make a point or comment, remain diplomatic - i.e. 'In my view...' 'An alternative view...'
- Be clear when you end - don't shrug, be definite and just stop.
The points raised were then combined into an exercise at the end of the workshop where we participated in an informal seminar involving each person presenting information on a different aspect of 'effective seminar participation' - relating it to interesting life experiences. We were split so each person had the chance to participate as an 'observer' in order to see the effects the tutors comments had on improving and highlighting the individual strengths and weaknesses in our communication.
Key points to remember:
- Good posture
- Positive voice
- Clear delivery
- To remember not to allow my body to move too much when delivering presentations i.e. to stop myself from swaying as this can communicate insecurity.
- To be definite in my presentation of information and questioning. Not be back down to interruption or question my right to speak.
- 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.'