It is about ownership and autonomy” (Wheeler 1999, cited in Talbot, 2010, 19). Many personal attributes and skills are required to be successful as a distance learner. Some of them are of the greater significance than others. Self-confidence, determination, self- discipline, time management and planning skills as well as critical reading and note-making skills are all of high importance and need to be developed through the course if not yet possessed (Talbot, 2010).
This assignment onsists of five activities which enabled the author to obtain the knowledge and academic skills required to be successful as a distance learning student and enhance her learning opportunities. The aim of activities is to focus on the author’s individual learning style, her time management skills and assess personal strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats by putting together a personal SWOT analysis as well as setting SMART objectives in Personal Action plan.
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After completion of all five activities, accompanied by research and reading of the study materials together with developed habit of eflection on her learning experience, the author will gain better understanding of study skills required to be successful in her degree course. She will be able to choose most effective study tools and techniques to help her positively approach her studies and Stay focused, motivated and organized. The aim for this assignment is to achieve study outcomes as shown in Figure one below and to become confident distance learner.
Identify the situations in which you learn most effectively Assess your individual Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and itigate for them appropriately Locate information relevant to studies from a variety of sources and use a range of media to retrieve it use the process of reflection to enhance your ability to learn Evaluate your progress towards becoming an independent learner and have an effective Personal Action Plan for future development Construct an academic essay, with appropriate argument and debate using Harvard referencing and citations (according to the format outlined in the Harvard referencing Handbook 201 3) Figure 1 -Learning Outcomes for Module One (Howitt, 2013, 6) 2. Introduction to Reflection Reflection is an essential element in learning. In his article about reflection Phil Race (2006) argued, that “The act of reflecting is one which causes us to make sense of what we have learned, why we learned it, and how that particular increment of learning took place”. We need to reflect on our experiences both positive and negative so that we could avoid making the same mistakes and ensure that we learn and repeat the process which enabled us to achieve SUccess (Talbot, 2010).
Reflective practice is a valuable development process for any learner (Bolton, 2010). By trying to understand why you do something in that particular way and how it makes you feel, you an develop the skills of reflection and critical thinking as well as recognise your strengths, which you can build upon through further studies, and weaknesses, which will need to be mitigated by putting action plan in place (Learning Development, 2010). According to Kolb (1 984), knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. He suggested that learning cycle consists of four stages shown in Figure 2, and each of these stages perform an equally important part in the learning process (Mumford, 1992).
As a learner, you have here-and-now (Kolb, 1984) experience followed by analysis, bservation and reflection on that experience which leads to action plans being created and applied within new learning process. Figure 2 Learning cycle (Kolb, 1984, 42) 3. Introduction to Learner Styles – Kolb’s Different people have different ways of studying, which are best suited to their environment and skills. Talbot (2010) commented that only by understanding your own learning style and approach to learning, you will be able to make the most of your learning experience and apply skills developed in both familiar and new situations. 3. 1 My Learning Style According to Honey and Mumford (1992), learning styles describe individual ttitudes and preferences towards learning.
They identified four learning styles: Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist. After reviewing work by Honey and Mumford (1992) and filling in the Learning styles Questionnaire, the author discovered that her highest scores indicated a very strong preference towards theorist and reflector learning style with the pragmatist learning style being third preference. Activist style scored the lowest and was the expected result. While theorist and pragmatist style indicating scores were not a surprise, a strong preference towards reflector learning style was something the author did not anticipate. Both at and out of work the author prefers dealing with situations which have got obvious practical advantage.
She enjoys following clear guidelines which are relevant to that particular situation and the presence of the credible person who the author can emulate and learn from (Mumford, 1992). Participation in complex situations, time allowance to explore interrelations between different systems and methods used as well as the ability to be intellectually stretched attract the author, which strongly supports both pragmatist and theorist learning preferences. To fully appreciate the learning process and have a balance earning style (Kolb, 1 984), the author needs to improve her activist style and utilise better her reflector style now she has got awareness of this preference. 4. Activity 1 – Independence as A Learner 4. Independent Learner Discussion Before commencing on their distance learning journey, it is important that students not only realise the advantages of flexibility at studying independently at your own pace but also understand the volume of hard work and high level of responsibility expected of them (Talbot, 2010). Necessary drive and determination is essential in order to succeed and gain cademic qualification, but the most challenging feature is the independent study (Cottrell, 2013). Although independent learning can provide a greater control of study time and place to the student, it is essential to stay focused, organized, maintain motivation and demonstrate excellent time management skills all the way through the course (Cottrell, 2013). As discussed by Honey and Mumford (1 992), understanding and using individual styles Of learning can be a huge contributing factor in the whole context of successful independent learning.
It has become clear to the author that if she wants to ucceed in her degree course and achieve her learning objectives and goals, she must identify her learning styles by reviewing her past and current learning experiences and acknowledge obstacles to effective learning. By reflecting on the new learning experiences she will be able to develop a greater awareness of the most efficient independent learning process. 4. 2 The Learner Inventory Questionnaire As part of activity one, the author had to complete The Learner Inventory Questionnaire shown in Figure 3, which helped her to evaluate her ability to study independently and challenge the areas which need to be improved.
Recognising individual strengths and weaknesses will be beneficial and help to enhance overall learning success. Developing yourself as an independent learner The aim of this inventory is to help you to think about your approach to learning. Everyone is unique and there is no ‘right’ approach to learning. By learning how we learn and by exploring new and different approaches to learning it is possible to become even more effective learners. We hope that this tool will help to stimulate your learning. Name : xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 2014 Todays date 12th Jan uary Not Very a) Before you go any further, indicate how Independent you think you are as a learner. 123Z15678 9 10 b) How would you define ‘independent learning?
When you are able to research various sources independently and systematically by using different learning methods which help to gain your own knowledge and reflect on the new techniques learnt. c) Ask a colleague for an estimate of how independent you are as a learner. 12345678 9 10 How did they reach that mark? Taking into account all CIMA professional qualification exams, which the author prepared for independently SECTION ONE: MOTIVATION very studies? Very 1. How interested are you in your 2 3 4 2. How keen are you to succeed in your studies? 1 you to become a better learner? 1 4 3. How keen are 4 SECTION TWO: MANAGING YOUR LEARNING Never Rarely Sometimes Always 4. Before starting a study session, are you clear about what you hope to learn? 4 5.
To what extent do you plan how and when you are going to learn something? 4 6. If you were having difficulties learning something, do you consider other sources of help? 4 7. If you come across new approaches would you incorporate them into your study process? SECTION THREE: REFLECTION 8. To what extent do you question what you are told, for example by tutors, books etc? 9. When you have finished learning about something, do you think back about how effective your learning process was? 4 ID. Do you change the way you go about learning new things as a result of thinking about past learning situations? INTERPRETING THE RESULTS Now add up the numbers in the boxes you ticked in each of the three sections.
QI-3 (Motivation) Total = Independence level ” 10 3- S = low independence, 6″9 = moderate independence, 10- 12 high independence Q4-7 (Managing Your Learning) Total = Independence level = 12 4 ” 7 low independence, 8 ” 12 moderate independence, 13″ 16 high ndependence Q8-10 (Reflection) Total = Independence level = 9 3 – 5= low independence, 6- 9 = moderate independence, 10-12 high independence GRAND TOTAL Grand total Overall independence level 31 Grand total: 10- 19 = low, 20 – 30 = moderate, 31 -40 = high Figure 3 The Learner Inventory questionnaire. (Lincoln University, 2013) 4. 3 Reflective Commentary Activity one has challenged me to focus on motivation, reflection and management of my learning as integral parts of the whole study process. All three areas are widely discussed by different authors (Cottrell, 201 3; Allan, 009;Talbot, 201 0), and their importance to effective independent learner development is evident. Looking back on my previous learning experience, the overall results were not surprising, but individual questions encouraged me to analyse and query the effectiveness of my learning style.
I want to succeed, know my reasons for study and understand how it will benefit my future, which explains the high independence score under motivation section (Cottrell, 2013). At the same time I have to admit, that losing motivation easily is one of my weaknesses which I will have to improve through putting action lan in place. I consider managing time effectively, planning and prioritising to be the most important factors while trying to achieve a sensible balance between my family, study and work commitments. The moderate level of independence, according to the score in this section of the questionnaire, highlighted the need to develop my time awareness and my time management skills (Cottrell, 2013).
In order to ensure that I become a better independent learner, I have to improve my score under the reflection section. Through process of analysis and reflection I will have to focus on my learning xperiences, constructive feedback from tutors and consider starting a reflective learning journal for self-monitoring (Cottrell, 2013). 5. Activity 2 ” Time Management 5. 1 Time Management Discussion Time is a resource that cannot be reused or recycled as with some other resources (Price, 2007), therefore you need to become an expert in creating time and managing it effectively and efficiently, which will enable to complete formative and summative assignments (Talbot, 2010).
Moore et al (2010, 135) commented that “most time management problems are causes by students having no clear plans, or having plans that are vague and unrealistic. A good student planner or diary can be invaluable from the time management perspective and it should contain the record of all study and non-study activities, assignment deadlines and specific study tasks, as well as free time, which is essential for rest and enabling brain to absorb information (Cottrell, 2013). A wall planner or other visual aids such as Time circles (Cottrell, 2013) can be used to enable better planning, evaluating whether sufficient time is allowed for studying and time monitoring.
Getting a sensible balance between studying time, work and family commitments is essential and enables you to stay stress free. The 4-D approach discussed by Moore et al (2010, 141) highlights four steps towards getting the right life balance, which are “identifying things that do not really need doing, and abandoning these”, “putting things off until after exams or assignments have been completed”, “doing things to a less perfect standard” and “negotiating with others to do things that you previously felt to be your responsibility’. Inappropriate time management skills can lead to academic procrastination which will result in delays in preparing and submitting assignments and adversely impact on academic achievements (Hussain, 2010).
Procrastination as well as other distractions needs to be managed by creating suitable environment, study triggers, raising motivation levels with introduced rewards system and setting smaller step by step tasks (Cottrell, 2013). 5. 2 Diagnostic Questionnaire TO complete activity two, the author had to fill in Diagnostic questionnaire in Figure 4. This enabled the author to self-evaluate her time management skills and develop self-awareness of the areas which need to be improved. To successfully manage time and keep up with personal action plan is a skill, which is easier to develop if you know where you are starting from (Cottrell, 013). By completing the questionnaire, the author had to carry out an honest assessment of her time management style both at work and outside work (Addams, 2003).
Yes No Do I waste time Do I give time to my priorities Do I know what want to achieve each day Do I put things off 5 Do I waste other peopl‚s time 6 Do I set deadlines 7 Do I meet deadlines 8 Am I in control of my time 9 Are others in control of my time 10 Do I plan my time 11 Do I spend too much time on some tasks 12 Are there times in the day when nothing seems to get accomplished x 13 Do I prefer to do things that are interesting even if they are not a priority 4 Do I spend too long on something trying to make it perfect 15 Do I plan my time successfully in the short term 16 Do I plan my time successfully in the long term Figure 4 How well do you work? 5. Reflective Commentary While completing Diagnostic questionnaire, I was able focus on my time management skills and identify areas of my life where I tend to waste my time, evaluate how well I plan, schedule my deadlines and how often I achieve my goals both at work and at home. Being in a complex business environment requires good time management skills in order to perform tasks n a monthly and quarterly basis in a timely manner and stay stress free. As an individual, I am very well organized at work, always list the tasks I have to perform, manage my e-mail flow and meetings effectively and prioritize well in order to meet required deadlines.
With the help Of tools such as Microsoft Outlook calendar and Sticky notes am able to be in control of my time and maintain my performance to high levels at all times. However, have to admit that maintaining similar time management strategies in my personal life and throughout my studies is much more challenging. have identified that most ime wasting occurs outside work due to home environment being more relaxed and more opportunities to engage in interesting activities with the family and friends. If want to achieve good results in my degree course it is crucial to ensure that distractions are minimized and interruptions are managed effectively.