March 26, 2012

Final blog entry

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.


February 25, 2012

Final entry on Becoming more assertive

Workshop Tutor: Beverley Veasey-Walshe

 

This is my final entry for this blog, which is unfortunate as I had a great time writing this. I attended the workshop with the expectation that by the end of it I will be capable to say “No” in situations that require it. Did I achieve this? No, but not because attendance to this workshop has not been particularly useful but because the amount of things I have learnt have exceeded any expectations I had.

A recap of the things I have learnt and my journey with assertiveness:

·         85% non-verbal communication (body language), 10% (intonation) and only the minor 5% or less the actual verbal message.

·         Posture that is neutral and doesn't suggest submissiveness or Eastern European arrogance ( Eastern European myself so I’m allowed to say that) is key to emanating confidence

·         Intonation that is neutral and soothing with a dip at the end, reminiscing the ubiquitous "mind the gap" we hear on public transport.

·         Women are not heard because they don't want to be heard. As girls we always get told off for speaking too loudly, classifying it as un-feminine ( fortunately there’s something we can do about it)

·         Self-esteem and confidence are not mutually exclusive. One can radiate confidence and have very little self-esteem, but having high self-esteem gives you a state of contempt

·         We also learnt that aggressiveness, passiveness and assertiveness are not on a spectrum but separate characteristics.  Assertiveness borrows the characteristics that the other two lack.

This is an impressive list of things, considering that the workshop only lasted about three hours.

Going back to my first point as to why I did not learn to say “NO”, one shall revisit the definition of assertiveness:

Confident and direct in claiming one's rights or putting forward one's views

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 as well as the advice given by Beth in the little comments after each blog post.

Thank you. It has been wonderful!

 

 

 

 


January 31, 2012

Follow–up on becoming more assertive

Follow-up to Follow–up on becoming more assertive from Ioana's learning progress at Warwick

As I have previously mentioned, the start of term 2 brought along a new challenge- team work. Being a person that enjoys routines and have a strong and defined work ethic, working with others is an area that I will always need to improve on. I have considered the definition of the word 'assertive' (or at least the definition given by thefreedictionary.com). It goes:

confident and direct in claiming one's rights or putting forward one's views

Going by that definition, I can't help but wonder if I have given myself the chance to express my assertiveness? I am known for being forward and honest, expressing my thoughts without concealing or exaggerating them so from that point of view I am always assertive. But isn't assertiveness context-dependent? Because although I consider that I have somewhat confidently and directly put forward my own views, these were done in the context of friendship. Expressing my views to someone I am familiar with is always easier than if I had to with a stranger. It is probably that reassurance that regardless of your views, your friends will love you unconditionally (hopefully, if you have nice friends). The only context I can think of that is likely to be unfamiliar but available where I could truly express any assertiveness I might hold are lectures and seminars. Not everyone is a friend there (so no comfort blanket) and to the lecturer you're more likely than not to be a strange figure. So next time I'm in a lecture and I disagree with a point, I will express it. Every time in a seminar there is a place for debate, I will have one. Because I am assertive ( or so I chant to myself hoping that this self-fulfilling prophecy will come true).

In my last post I was also complaining about posture and slumping all the time but luckily enough my flatmate has been taking classes in delivery effective presentations, so everytime my posture is awful (which is most of the time) she gives me a delicate(or not) pat on the back as a warning sign. I also discovered that high heels although painful and torturing make me have a nice tall posture when standing up straight. I have now gotten rid of all my flat heel shoes ( what doesn't a woman do for beauty?).

Additionally, I have recovered (or starting to) from my abundance of the word sorry. Two weeks have passed and I cannot recall the last time I have apologised for something I have not done. Makes me proud, feeling almost like a recovering alcoholic. Who knew addictions come in all shapes and types?

That's it for now. Onto the next challenge ahead.


January 14, 2012

Follow–up on becoming more assertive

Follow-up to First entry on Becoming more assertive from Ioana's learning progress at Warwick

After a short period away, I am back. Nothing feels better than living in the Warwick bubble. With such a wide diversity of people at Warwick, coming from different cultures, educational backgrounds, social statuses, talents, inclinations and aspirations, it is sometimes challenging to discover where you fit yourself in. It is even more challenging when discovering who you are and what you aspire to be to stick to your guns and confront anyone who might oppose you. In these times of "friendly" tension and bickering, it is important to be able to literally stand on your own two feet.

My posture is awful. I either slump on a chair signalling boredom and disinterest or stand up so tall and straight being so intimidating not even my closest friends dare approach me. It is definitely something I have to work on. For the sake of my spine as well. It is often that we are not aware of our posture and body language and what that might suggest to other people, so I will attempt to do something about it. No more slumping, no more militant ready to kill you postures. Just me, standing up straight with an approachable smile on my face.

"Sorry seems to be the hardest word" some lyrics go- well, not when you are me. The other night , my friend and I ended up arguing because I say sorry way too often. I ended up saying that I'm sorry for being sorry for being sorry. A sorry within a sorry within a sorry- a bit like inception. I never thought that being too apologetic could cause problems in relationships. But there you go. I shall have to learn not to feel apologetic for something I have not done or shouldn't feel sorry for. It's has become a reflex that I will just have to unlearn. So next goal- don't be sorry if you're not!

The really interesting posts will come from next week. I am doing a group research project that is worth 100% of a module. I can already predict conflict of interests, different opinions, too many apologies and an urge to escape. Repeating the mantra" I am assertive, I can express clearly and concisely my own opinion while gaining people's attention " should help.


January 12, 2012

Final entry on Academic writing for science and engineering students

 

Studying for a science degree, scientific writing definitely plays an important aspect of the course.  Writing scientifically is not usually taught in school or college, so having to do it at degree level can be a challenge. With little help and support from tutors and lecturers about what scientific writing entails, a workshop like this is certainly a great advantage. 

Through this workshop I have been taught how to structure an assignment with particular emphasis on introduction and conclusion. The introduction has the purpose of grabbing interest and attention from the reader, presenting the topic and a preview of the structure of the essay.  Ever since the workshop, these have been things that I have taken into consideration when writing an introduction. It is effortful when you’re a novice but with practice writing a scientific introduction becomes easier.

The conclusion has the purpose of summarising what has been discussed in the essay and drawing your own inferences where appropriate. These have been techniques that I have practiced while writing my assignments.

The workshop also introduced us to the concept of plagiarism and its effects. We have learnt about PLATO and techniques that can be applied in order to avoid being accused of plagiarism. These include writing the information in your own words, quoting the information and citing the original source.

Through the workshop we have also learnt about referencing and the many different formats that can be used, although this is generally decided for you by your department or nature of degree. Very handy software that we have been introduced to is Endnote, an online website that saves for you articles you have read and then creates a citation depending on the formatting style you have chosen.

It has been a pleasurable experience that has introduced me to the world of scientific writing, techniques that can be used to writing objectively and concise and ways of saving time when referencing.  Thank you very much for this workshop.


Follow–up on academic writing for science and engineering students

Follow-up to Follow–up on Academic writing for science and engineering students from Ioana's learning progress at Warwick

Embarrassingly, I have to start this blog once again apologising for the delay in writing a post. Being away and with an exam(which went well) and two assignments that I have managed to get rid of this morning, my Christmas was not very Christmasy. On the plus side I had plenty of opportunities to expand the skills obtained from the workshop.

I've written plenty of introductions and conclusions for the past few weeks and I have asked myself how did I write them differently from what I would usually write them following this workshop? First of all I invest more time in planning the structure of an essay. I think critically about what information is more adequate in each section of an essay. For example the information that goes in the introduction is meant to present the topic, creating attention and interest and provide an overview of the structure of the essay.The same goes for the conclusion. I would pay attention to summarise appropriately what has been discussed in the essay and where adequate I would draw my own conclusion. These are things that I would take into consideration when writing the essay. They are different from how the pre-workshop me would do them as before I'd just take a wild intuitive guess as to what goes where.

I have also managed to successfully create an endnote account, through web of knowledge. I find it very interesting as it retains the citations and articles that I have saved and also it allows me to change between different reference styles. Very effective and time efficient.


December 12, 2011

First entry on Becoming more assertive

Workshop Tutor: Bev

Introduction

I must begin by firstly apologising for the delay in writing my first blong entry. I have been busy in the final week of term with deadlines and assignments to the point I'd even forget to breathe( even though that's beneath my conscious control).

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 the top of my head, few phrases repeated through the workshop stuck out:

85% non-verbal communication(body language), 10%(intonation) and only the minor 5% or less the actuall verbal message. Started to panic there, only to learn that Bev will take care of us and teach us how to enhance our vital 95% of communication. Posture that is neutral and doesn't suggest submisiveness or Eastern european arrogance ( I'm eastern european and every member of my family, men more often, stand upright like a communist dictatorship is still instigated)  is key to emanating confidence and also intonation that is neutral and soothing with a dip at the end, reminiscing the ubiquitous "mind the gap" we hear on public transport. 

Women are not heard because they don't want to be heard. As girls we always get told off for speaking too loudly, classifying it as un-feminine. Which is scary. I'm a woman and I want my message to be heard and processed when I want it to be. 

Self-esteem and confidence are not mutually exclusive. One can radiate confidence and have very little self-esteem (as seen in the case studies), although I am still unsure if one can have little confidence and high self-esteem. I reckon a person with genuine high self-esteem will be able to shine it through their personality. Maybe that's just me.

We also learnt that aggresiveness, passiveness and assertiveness are not on a spectrum but separate characteristics.  Assertiveness borrows the characteristics that the other two lack.

Actions

  1. When attending debating or even debating with my friends, I will express my opinions and express them damn well. This will be done by using adequate posture and intonation such as those taught in the seminar. Remember the 85-10-5 rule!

  2. Aware and scared of bystander apathy, next time when I am in a situation of uncertainty and where a large group of people is involved I shall take the sensible action and do something about it. For example, while waiting for a train that has been delayed and there is a large group of fellow passengers waiting I shall go myself and find out information about the delay rather than expect someone else to do it for me. Although I'm not sure how to react if I bump into this woman on the train :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRNFfPZh5qI&feature=related

  3. Do some research on confidence and self esteem and check whether there is such a thing as low confidence and high self esteem.

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills/usp/workshops/ppd/p2/blog


Final entry on Speed reading

 

 

The workshop on speedy reading has been the most useful in terms of direct applicability to my academic life. It has provided me with a toolkit that helped cut down the time spent on long boring readings and increasing the time I could use for more enjoyable activities.

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. It's not a marketing idea, I'm not advertising for QVC, but it works. Reading time decreases while comprehension increases.

Of most use, I found using a pen as a guide. It helps guide my eyes on the line of text and through the text pacing the reading according to the speed at which I move the guide.  It also stops me from re-reading sentences, which helps save time while comprehension is still not compromised.

Eliminating distractions such as Facebook, mobile phone or off topic conversations with friends always help s improve performance on a task. This is a tip I always use when practicing speed reading.

I have applied the techniques to other forms of reading such as from a screen, or even when writing which only highlights the overall usefulness and applicability of this workshop.

I shall continue to practice my techniques until they become sort of automatic and speed reading is second nature. Over the holidays I will attempt to allocate 10 minutes a day (at least) in practicing to maintain the skills that I have taken away from this workshop.

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. It is also very effective for understanding the information before a seminar or a lecture, but although comprehension is good it does not ensure long term remembering of the material. Which is not necessarily a bad thing of speed reading- any reading done only once does not ensure long term remembering of material- it is just a comment.

Thank you very much Laura for your wonderful workshop.

 


December 11, 2011

Follow–up on Academic writing for science and engineering students

Follow-up to First entry on Academic writing for science and engineering students from Ioana's learning progress at Warwick

I must begin by apologising for the long delay in writing this follow-up. The reasons being are the vast amount of assignments I have had to do in the last 2 weeks of term. It was messy, chaotic and stressful. On the plus side, this could only mean that I have had the chance to implement the skills learnt in the workshop.

On my first entry I did not put a deadline for when I plan to achieve my action points, knowing that I will have the chance to attempt them when writing my assignments.

So I've written and re-written introductions to the point that I would regurgitate them in my sleep. The benefit is that I was able to implement key skills such as capturing attention, providing relevant background information and making it concise and objective. The Psychology department is not very keen on writing a plan of the essay in the introduction however. I was also able to write a scientific conclusion, summarising findings and the claims we can make from such findings.

With regards to plagirising, I am not extremely keen on reading it up anymore as every single lecturer goes on about it until our ears start bleeding. I have so far not gotten in trouble for plagiarism, so I assume I have not done too bad for myself.

My last action point was to learn about endnote. However, I have not had the time to go and book an appointment to be given guidance. I'm just wondering if there is anything online that I could read or apply for an account? If not, I will have to wait until after the Christmas holidays for a one to one appointment.


November 23, 2011

First entry on Academic writing for science and engineering students

Workshop Tutor: Tutor

Introduction

Attending this workshop I was expecting to come out more knowledgeable about scientific writing. Has the workshop achieved my goal? I assume so.

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.

The two key points I will take from the work shop are writing an introduction and plagiarism. An introduction introduces the topic (duh!), creates interest, provides adequate background information about the chosen topic, identifies the main idea/s, and gives a preview of the main body of the essay. Sounds easy, but it is harder when you actually have to write it.

Plagiarism - every single department at Warwick Uni (hope this is not a generalization) goes mental about plagiarism and appropiate referencing. Every subject area has a different style and format that they expect their students to use (i.e. APA, Harvard, or number referencing). And apparently, every single piece of submitted writing goes through a software where it is checked on percentage plagiarism (30% and over and you're in trouble). 

Overall, it has been an interesting experience and it has covered all the main issues an introductory workshop on scientific writing should cover.

Actions

  1. First action point is to do some research about endnote, how I can sign up or how I can use it. It just makes referencing much easier. For that I should perhaps book an appointment with a librarian who could take me step by step through the process. Or I could always find it out by myself.

  2. Stop plagiarising! Whenever I write an essay I sould write a paragraph that I'm citing once, leave it for a few hours (incubation period), return to it and change the words again. Hopefully the end result will be much different from the original citation so that plagiarism is minimised.

  3. Start writing an introduction following the structure that I have been taught in the seminar- beginning sentence to create interest, necessary background information, introduction of main ideas and a preview of the rest of the essay ( although in Psychology this does not work) . Hopefully, an A+ introduction will result from this. 

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills/usp/workshops/academicskills/a2/blog


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