Workshop Tutor: Vicky Crawford
The Warwick Skills Portfolio Award is a journey I would recommend to anyone. Why? It does not really take much time to complete and is by no means a strain on one's activities. It might even be said it is a rather welcome distraction and colouriser in days when things seem bleak. It offers one a chance to engage and think about new and interesting techniques and diversify one's abilities and knowledge. I would go so far as saying it could even be made mandatory, especially for the shyer walks of life such as mathematicians and physicists. In our respective fields there is a tendency for people to get isolated and engulfed in maths or physics. This however is rather bad for people, because it allows for a very disproportionate development of the being, and consequently results in a very limited skill set with respect to people skills, communication and general life skills. This is bad for society as a whole, but I believe it is also equally damaging for mathematicians and physicists themselves as it results in more isolation and alienation (the principle of negative feedback). And who is to blame? The limited vision of the people who have designed the education system here. Its constraints have rendered those naturally vulnerable unable to develop these skills as they are never put into an environment where they are forced to use them. Thus I believe the WSPA offers just such an environment and could be used to give a diverse perspective to those who desperately need it, even if they are not aware of that themselves.
My personal opinion is that your education system is not nearly tough enough on students, but that is another matter. Let us now continue with my review of the WSPA.
I found all the workshops that I went to helpful (“Intro to emotional intelligence”, “Organising yourself and your time”, “Career planning”, “Reading and note-making” and “Speed reading”). The “Getting started workshop” was something quite unusual. Perhaps the single valuable thing I got from the workshop was the reflective mindset. As I have done philosophy and psychology, there was really nothing new for me in that workshop and I had the feeling there were other people with similar experiences (Ms. Crawford did a great job, it was just that the content was already known to me). I would thus propose the P1 workshop is instead made optional and a “Getting started” booklet might be published online giving students a short narrative about the reflective mindset and how best to use it. This way people who feel that they need P1 can go to it. People who already have the skills can read the online literature on the subject to prepare themselves for future workshops. I believe this would save both us and you time and resources.
The by far most useful workshop was “Career planning”. I am an international student and most of us do not know how the labour market works here. We do not know the companies, the sectors, the application processes etc. All we know is what we can gather from our peers, which is not always correct. Thus “Career planning” offered a very good introduction to the mindset of employers here and how one should proceed with planning his approach towards his own life and career. I would again emphasise that this is critically useful to most international students. What most of them learn is peer-based and not always correct and they might very well be taking the wrong career path and hence be preparing themselves for a life that is not truly theirs by informed choice but rather pushed upon them by the lack of information, their inability to look for it and sometimes peer pressure. This could in part be remedied by a mandatory presentation like “Career planning” and a blogging session afterwords.
“An introduction to emotional intelligence” is also something I believe should be kept on with. There does not seem to be much interest in it and the sessions are quite rare. I hope it does not get shut down as that would be a loss for the students (Correct me if I am wrong, please). Emotional intelligence is the singular most lacking thing in the elitist society of today and endowing the elite of tomorrow with such skills might hopefully stimulate them to be more honest, more altruistic and more generous than the current masters, hence allowing for a more balanced, equal and symbiotic society.
“Organising yourself and your time”, “Reading and note making” and “Speed reading” were all good workshops, targeted at the respective skills and through the blogs achieving desired results.
My final comment is about the blogging system. I find it quite remarkable in that it does not strain one with much to do, yet manages to keep one's attention on the subject studied and stimulates one's ingenuity on fulfilling the action points. The wisdom of India has produced: “You become what you think.” Hence concentrating the mind through the blogs allows for good quick progress and the establishment of awareness on a subject. A good idea!
With this I conclude my commentary and I leave the bright minds of tomorrow in your capable hands. You are fashioning the future so pray do it responsibly.