Final blog entry
The first workshop that I have attended “An introduction to Warwick Skills Portfolio Award” was meant to be just a basic introductory seminar. By the end of it however, I had learnt my learning style (rather unsurprisingly, I’m a theorist), my unused learning style (activist), have been introduced to reflection and have been taught about skills. We all have skills, it’s just a matter of understanding that they develop with practice. Looking back, little did I know or understand at the time the importance of reflection. Being able to put time aside for thinking over the day’s events and deciding what worked well and what could be improved, is essential if one is to make any progress. Reflection is both an art and a skill that I am keen on mastering gracefully.
The most helpful thing that I took away from this seminar was learning about skills and my learning strategies. It has massively improved my confidence knowing that by definition skills are abilities that can be practiced and through practice improved. I now believe that I have a fairly equal chance as my colleagues to achieve everything I set to achieve, as long as practice in the form of hard work is carried out.
The learning strategies helped me understand who I am, what sort of environments I work best in and what are the kind of things I lack. I know that I am under-using my activist side so that is something I need to work on- being more sociable, more open to experiences, doing new things and being more carefree. At the same time I can work on the skills that I already have so that I maintain them (planning ahead, keeping things organized, sticking to deadlines, understanding functional aspects of things, etc).
Following the introductory seminar, I have attended the critical thinking skills workshop. I have always lived with the fear that I lack something so vital for human cognition. This until I have been taught through this workshop that critical thinking is nothing more than criticising assumptions, deciding whether claims are true or false. Sounds simple enough, but how is it actually done? The workshop has taught me that it is done through developing a challenging mindset, by questioning, understanding, exploring and expanding. Also, a sound claim is constructed using logic and argument.
It has been an insightful workshop, from which I have not learnt plenty of new information. But a workshop from which I have learnt to identify the knowledge I already had and think critically about it. And perhaps this is more important that any new knowledge one could obtain. I've been debating, writing essay, finding arguments, writing empirical criticisms and they all seemed so much easier following this seminar. I've been taught to look at things with a critical eye and I'm not letting go of this technique from now on.
I then tried to discover the world of emotional intelligence. What exactly was it? I wasn’t very sure. But by the end of it, I understood. Emotional intelligence refers to the skills of controlling your feelings and understanding those of the others. Just like the other workshops, this one has also taught me a skill. Having Clinical Psychology as my ambition in life, this seminar has certainly been an eye-opener. Learning that emotional intelligence is just as much understanding others as it is knowing yourself, has made me see myself in a new light. Struggling to identify flaws in myself, I have learnt that perhaps I put up defence mechanisms in order to protect my fragile self.
The one thing that will stay with me forever from this workshop is that it's not necessary to understand that others have emotions that are different from yours, but that YOU yourself have emotions and you have to go through a learning phase where you understand them and find ways to deal with them.
Following an insight into the brain and the mind, I have attended a more practical seminar with a hands-on approach. With speedy reading I learnt to complete a reading that before would have taken me 2 hours in less than half an hour. It wasn’t a miraculous transformation and I have not been advertised a product that makes us better readers. Instead I have been given the tools necessary to make reading faster, more comprehensible and all the while more enjoyable. I have learnt about position of the books, using a guide, reading in chunks, eliminating distractions, expanding fixation zone and reducing fixations. All are tricks or rather practical tips on how to reduce a 50 page read from an average of 2 hours to 30minutes.
The workshop has therefore provided me with a wonderful toolkit that would in the long term enable me to become the best that I can be. However, the downfall of speed reading is that it is tedious and can’t be sustained for long periods of time, at the moment only being able to average around 30minutes after which I require a break. Hopefully with more practice I will be able to increase the average time.
Following this, I have learnt about writing for a science degree. The things that I took away from the workshop include always underlining keywords in an essay/assignment title and thinking critically about what it is I am being requested to answer; thinking ahead and doing a lot of planning; the function of an introduction and how you can construct one that is in concordance with scientific principles; writing a conclusion and the ideas that must go into one; plagiarism and referencing.
This workshop has been very valuable as the nature of my degree requires me to know and apply the knowledge I have gained through this workshop. It has therefore been another very practical seminar that has helped me enhance my experience as a student.
Finally, assertiveness is the last seminar that I have attended. I have attended this workshop expecting to come out knowing how and when to say "No" in situations that require this response, and becoming confident in my ability to express my opinions when I want to. From my blogs, it is clear that I have taken away a vast array of skills just from this one particular seminar. I have learnt about self-esteem and confidence, body language, posture, tone and intonation.
By definition assertiveness is not saying no, but rather putting your opinions and views across with confidence and honesty. So I didn’t learn to say no, because most social situations I come across where my opinion is necessary don’t require me to say no. It is a blessing that I am learning a skill that helps facilitate my interactions with others rather than shaping me as a forceful individual.
I have a long way to go before I can confidently claim I am an assertive individual but I most certainly am on the road of becoming one. Applying the skills and knowledge learnt in this seminar will sure help.
Overall, my experience with the WSPA has been an amazing one. I am one step (or 6 rather) to becoming the person and student that I want to be. I have been given a toolkit with skills applicable in real life, in daily interactions with peers or in my academic life. The whole experience has taught me to practice reflection, to think deeply about my downfalls and strengths and most importantly to create action points based on this. After all, the format of the blog was one of reflection and advancement wasn’t it?
Thank you very much for this experience. I have recommended it to everyone that has asked me about it.