July 01, 2010

Final Entry for Warwick Skills Portfolio Award

Continuous improvement is essential in ensuring success. Therefore, I take it seriously to keep on continuing improving myself. Among one of the many ways of achieving this is for me to join all these workshops and I considered myself to be extremely lucky for being given the opportunity to attend the workshops. Through the workshops, I have gained many useful insights, information, tips and advice on how to further enhance my skills with the workshops focusing on the aspects of personal development, academic skills and career development.

In terms of personal development, I have attended seven workshops and all of them have greatly introduced something useful for me to be applied in everyday lives. 

It all began with the P1 workshop which introduced me to this Warwick Skills Portfolio Award workshop program. It emphasised on my study skills, learning styles and the importance of reflection in the learning process. It also highlighted on the need for me to keep on analysing and evaluating my skills and qualities continuously to improve myself as time goes by. All these could be achieved through constant reflection which I did on a regular basis nowadays.

Secondly, I attended the P2 workshop (Becoming more assertive) with such an interesting tutor (Bev Walshe). This workshop allowed me to explore the art of assertiveness through body posture, body language and how we speak especially the intonation of the voice. Besides, I need to adjust my assertiveness level according to the situation so as to produce the desired effects. I still remember how timid I could be before and luckily I managed to break free from that cocoon of mine and right now I am progressing in becoming a more assertive person.

One of the most important workshop I have ever attended was P3 (Working in a team). It really opened up my eyes on the importance of group structure, different roles that exist in a group and how it should be managed and organised to ensure a group can functions cohesively and effectively. It really taught me the importance of tolerance, diversity and versatility. I am far better able to work in a group nowadays compared to before attending the workshop.

One of the most 'scary' among the entire workshops I have ever attended was the P4 workshop (Delivering effective presentation). I had to actually came to the front of the class (of absolute strangers) and make a presentation. Twice!!! It was such a daunting task! (Bev really knows how to push and force people to challenge their limits!). This workshop mainly emphasised the need for me to have a well-structured presentation, maintain an eye-contact with the audience, use less words and more visual images, diversifying my voice intonation, and speak in a clear, loud and intelligible manner. Even though I still do not have many opportunities to do any presentation during my First Year, I believe I am more confident now in doing small presentation in seminars and tutorials. I no longer speak to the floor or the wall while presenting and now dare to look at the audience instead while presenting. I am also more confident to interact with the audience and I also spend more time in planning, organising and preparing my presentation to ensure that is presentable, easy for the audience to follow and as clear and concise as possible.

Another almost similar workshop is the Effective Seminar Participation workshop (P5). In this workshop, Bev emphasised the need to speak up, speak up and speak up. Do not be stingy in keeping your thoughts to yourself as it could be beneficial for others to hear it and do not feel like what you know or want to ask is not important as it might be actually really really important. Besides, it is important to support other participants in the seminar. This can be done by utilising the right and proper body language and behaviours such as paying attention to the person speaking and support their points or add to their points wherever possible. Besides, the workshop also highlighted the things that need to be done before a seminar, during a seminar and after a seminar. Before a seminar, make sure that we have read the topic thoroughly and come to the seminar prepared with questions, opinions and interesting points to be contributed and highlighted during the seminar later. During the seminar, make sure to take notes of the discussion. Next, look at the notes again after the seminar and do follow up work if necessary such as researching for more information from other sources, resolving questions not answered in the seminar and summarising the outcome of the seminar.

In terms of seminar participation, I believe I have progressed quite far. I am no longer that shy and reserved student who kept his thoughts just to himself. The only problem is that nowadays we have to compete for the chance to speak among so many enthusiastic participants in such a short time. But, so far I am very satisfied with my development now in terms of seminar participation. The 'push' and practices that Bev provided to us in the workshop surely worked. Besides, I am now strictly following what has been taught about the things to do before, during and after seminars as I found it to be very extremely deeply useful and beneficial for my studies as it make things clearer, helps in note-preparation and surely helps with my revision process.

One of the most important and highly anticipated workshops for me was the P6 workshop (An Introduction to Emotional Intelligence). It raised my awareness about how I should respond with my environment and interact with other people. The workshop also highlighted the need to improve my emotional management. One of the most prominent things is the need to be more positive. The workshop also introduced me to the concept of emotional coaching which means that I should try to make others also feel good about themselves and happy. To be honest, the workshop was not one of those workshops that could be comprehended at one go. I need to process the input for quite some time before it eventually started to sunk in. The comprehension process was certainly helped by the interactive activities held during the workshop which was carried out at the Reinvention Centre where all of us sit informally and in a very relaxed manner. In terms of development, I would say that I am now more sensitive to others' emotional states and try my best to adapt my way of interaction with others' emotional states.    

And the last of personal development skills workshop I attended was the P7 workshop (Self-organisation and time management). This workshop basically pinpointed the methods and techniques that could be utilised to organise oneself and to ensure optimum utilisation of the ever-precious time. One of the points that really struck me was the need to be specific and detailed in setting up plans so that each plan will have their own time allocation so that I will be compelled to adhere to the plan instead of doing them whenever I feel like doing them. This is also related to the S.M.A.R.T. concept in setting goals as goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Besides, the workshop also made me realise the importance of determining which things should I prioritised at one particular time. Prioritisation is very important as it will guide us on which things to do now, which things can be postponed to later and which things should be attended to when everything else that are important have been dealt with. 

Regarding the skills of self-organisation and time management, I have gained so much from the workshop. I have started to use organisers, planners and reminders nowadays to help me manage my life more smoothly. I never leave the room nowadays without my organiser, never leave the house without first referring to the planner and reminders (post-it notes) on the walls. It really helps in decision-making, time management and prioritising. Besides, I am better in prioritising now after attending the workshop. The workshop did provided me with the guidelines on how to prioritise and it is really a big help.

Besides personal skills development, I also attended workshops that emphasised more on academic skills especially the ones needed for me to excel in my study in university. I attended the Reading and Note-taking workshop (A1), Academic Writing for Arts and Social Science Students workshop (A3), Effective Learning and Revision Skills workshop (A4) and Critical Thinking workshop (A5). All these workshops gave priority to the skills needed for university students to succeed and fully optimising their studying time in university. 

The first one is the reading and note-taking workshop (A1). At first it seems not at all important to me but luckily I attended the workshop. It is extremely crucial and vital for maximum utilisation of the processes of reading and note-taking. Reading is extremely important for university students as it is one of the main source of input and therefore it should be done correctly and to the most optimum level to ensure high quality input. Accompanying reading is the skills of note-taking. Note-taking is needed after receiving input from whatever sources there are, be it reading, listening to lectures and participation in seminars. A good note is ever important for revision process later on especially for examination purposes as notes are more concise and suitable for triggering and stimulating the already-stored knowledge in the memory. Among the things highlighted in the workshop especially in my case was the need to stop copying verbatim from reading materials for making notes and to stop the practice of making notes while reading. Instead, I should first read the materials and summarise the points later on to be written as notes. Besides, the tutor (Mary Sage) also mentioned the importance to time my reading. This is especially so at university level as there are tonnes and piles of readings need to be done in such a short time. In addition to that, the workshop also stressed on the need for scanning and skimming processes while reading. This is very important as scanning and skimming will help save the time for reading as we will only then read the things we need instead of spending our precious time on reading the whole book or the whole shelf in the library about one particular topic.

To be honest, this is one of the most important workshops that I have ever attended and I really urged every student at university level to attend the workshop. It really helps me a lot. I progresses so far after attending it. Now, I will first read through a material to gain understanding and later summarising it to be processed as notes whether it is in text or graphic forms. This really helps me with the note-taking process. All the notes now is ever-precious during my revision process for my examination. Another important point to note is how far I have progressed in terms of reading skills. Right now, I am better in reading than before. I don't have to read through the whole book to get the needed information anymore. I don't have to spend hours and hours going through the library shelves searching for the required books anymore. I am reading faster, better and get more out of it than before. The scanning and skimming processes really help a lot and crucial for my study in university.

Next, I also attended the Academic writing for arts and social science students (A3). This is one of the heaviest workshops I have ever attended. It was very technical in my opinion. I never thought writing could be so complex. It underlined the need for me to make my writing clear, concise and easy to be followed by the reader. It also made me realise my weaknesses in terms of cohesiveness. It seems that I am having problem to link between points and paragraphs. It did not seemed to be smoothly connected. Besides, it was a revelation to me that I cannot let quotations to stand on their own. I need to explain, elaborate and gives my opinion about the quotations. It also made me realise the importance to analyse the questions given thoroughly so as to produce the writings required appropriately. The workshop also stated the need to avoid waffling while writing.

I am now better in producing a cohesive and smooth piece of writing as I started to use cohesive devices more as suggested by the tutor. This in turn will make it easier for the reader to read my writing. I also believe I have progressed well in quoting and citing which is imperative and urgently crucial for university students. I also have practised the practice of elaborating, explaining and commenting on the quotations or citations that I use in my writing instead of letting them hanging alone in my writings as I did previously. Other than that, I am more careful now in analysing questions as I know the consequences of writing something which is not required by the questions. It is severe. Very severe indeed. I have started the practice of discussing the questions first with friends (if permitted) and even ask for further clarification from the academic tutor involved before start working for a piece of written work. Not forgetting that I do spend more time nowadays to prepare and plan for a piece of wr iting before embarking on the writing process. This is to ensure a well-planned, clear and smooth piece of writing.

The next workshop that I attended was the Effective learning and revision skills workshop (A4). Basically this workshop presented to me the difference learning styles and preferences that each one of us has and therefore the best techniques that each of us needs to apply in the learning process that suits us. After going through several tests (one of it was the VARK test), I am now more aware of my learning styles and preferences and therefore the best methods for me to utilise for my studying processes to ensure that I get the most out of my learning process.

And the last academic skills workshop that I attended was the Critical Thinking workshop (A5). It was the most shocking and surprising of all the workshops that I have ever attended. It really opened up my mind to the wider idea of the world around us. From the workshop, I learned to never stop asking questions. Question is very important in that it stimulates the mind to think more towards finding the solutions and answers needed. Besides, I need to question everything. By doing so, I will think more and more and could end up with more knowledge and information than what I need. Another important thing that I learned from the workshop is to challenge everything and not to be afraid to question the authority. By doing so, I could find more truth than what is on the surface instead of just accepting what is presented to me. Another important point is we must not be bias. Always remain neutral at all times to ensure that we analyse things impartially, carefully and thoroughly before coming to any sort of decisions. Moreover, never ever generalise things. Do not over-simplify and over-generalise things ever. We could end up being totally wrong. Always investigate and seek more information before making any conclusions and decisions. I really am glad that I attended this workshop. It really woke me up. It woke my senses. I am now more analytical and thorough in my thinking pattern which really helps me to understand many things easier, from assignment and examination questions to even life events and situations.

Besides personal and academic skills development, I also attended several career development skills workshops (I am still attending and just finished my last one this very afternoon). The first one that I ever attended was the Career Planning for Social Science students workshop (C2). Through the workshop, I gained a lot of insights and information about what awaits me after my university years. The workshop inspired me to start thinking about my career in the not-so-distant future and all the options available for me after my university time. It also triggered me to start identifying the skills needed in order for me to pursue the career paths I had in mind and thus motivates me to acquire as much of these skills as possible now while I am still studying. It also highlighted the need for me to gain more experience in terms of careers such as applying for an internship, doing voluntary works and looking for a part-time jobs. It also made me realise the importance to plan and map out my career path more systematically so that I could see the path clearly and thus make it easier for me to go through it as if step by step. This workshop is extremely useful as it really triggered me to start thinking about my career life afterwards. I am now doing regular research about the options available for me after I have finished my degree and from there, constantly revising, planning and mapping out the paths that are possible for me in terms of my career development. In a sense, it really motivates me to study harder now so as to make sure that I am on the right track of my career development. [I have also just finished attending the Making Effective Application workshop (C4), How to get your own work experience workshop (C9) and Interviews and Assessment Centres workshop (C5) very recently].

In short, all the workshops whether they are personal development, academic or career development skills are extremely useful and really help to prepare myself for the challenges of the present time while studying in Warwick and also the challenges of the future after finishing my study. I urgently feel that every Warwick students should attend the workshops that Warwick University has been so dedicated to provide for its students in order to produce students who will stand out among other university students out there and thus making us, Warwick students, more special and valuable.        

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  • Dear Saiful Thank you so much for this final entry – you have really put a lot of thought and time i… by Mary Sage on this entry

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