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August 12, 2012

Final Entry for Warwick Skills Portfolio Award

Initial thoughts...

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:

  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 of my comfort zone and become more flexible and adaptable
  3. 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.

Development achieved

Some workshops I gained a lot more than I expected, in particular the working in a team workshop was really interesting and engaging.

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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.

Overall thoughts...

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.

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Best wishes,

Gwyn Davies

MSc Biotechnology, Bioprocessing & Business Management


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.

 


October 31, 2011

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

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

  1. To commit myself to completing the further workshops and applying what I learn to my everyday life

    I have just completed a second workshop and look forward to applying myself to further ones in the near future. I have found them to be compelling, practical and important to maintaining and developing the skills I need to bring to my Masters study and work life. I hope to complete the necessary workshops for this award by the beginning of next term.


  2. To apply the skills and techniques highlighted in situations outside my comfort zone and become more flexible and adaptable

    I have applied the ideal learning situations I discovered from this workshop to my recent studies. Making sure I put the theory into context, relating it back to examples which illustrate the bigger picture. This has helped to improve my overall learning and understanding. Plus, I have tried to be more spontaneous and flexible in my approach to group work which has stretched me and helped to encourage my creative side.


  3. To improve my self reflection by listening to feedback from others and use of structured self assessment

    Recently I have applied most of my reflection to my personal life and this has helped to highlight and overcome some of my insecurities. Most important to me is the feedback from others. This has been of particular help in my academics, in particular, my presentation skills which have been moved forward as a result of well structured and insightful comments.



October 14, 2011

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

Workshop Tutor: Samena Rashid

Introduction

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:

  • Ability
  • Learned
  • Developed
  • Enabling

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.

Actions

  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 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


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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
  • Hi Gwyn I have enjoyed reading your blogs. You have clearly demonstrated that you have embraced a cr… by Austin Griffiths on this entry
  • Hi Gwyn – thank you for your final entry. You have clearly benefitted from attending the workshop an… by Trudy Hillier on this entry
  • Hi Gwyn, I think it is always a good idea to have a tight focus for a dissertation. It means you can… by Austin Griffiths on this entry

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