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"He that never changes his opinions, never corrects his mistakes, will never be wiser on the morrow than he is today." Tryon Edwards. Like the quotation of Tryon Edwards, one has to make mistakes to learn something new and one also has to change his opinions and correct the mistakes that he made before. This learning journal will reflect on my learning style, my professional skills and how I work on different theories, what my failures are and how did I overcome it.How do I learn the best?
When I talk about learning styles and different styles of learning, then I specifically look into how it has helped me to gain success in my life. After a long research, I found out Kolb's Learning Style Inventory (Kolb, 1984), Anthony Gregorc's model (1969) and Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence model were the ones which matched closer to evaluating my learning abilities. "Theories are not just things to be read and learned. They are constantly evolving works." (Littlejohn, 2002).
Kolb's Learning Style Inventory (Kolb, 1984), lead me to identify my strengths and weaknesses and how effective I can learn. It suited my style of analysing and learning things. Kolb's LSI focuses on experimental learning of an individual. It reflects on four modes of learning, they are, Concrete Experience, Reflective Observation, Abstract Conceptualization and Active Experimentation (Kolb et al, 1984). It was interesting to know that I was more into Active Experimentation. On Kolb's LSI scoring chart (fig 1), I ended up being more accommodating and diverging than being converging or assimilating. After taking lots of tests I found out that my results matched closer to what exactly I was, and the results of these tests were found in interpreting your learning style (Tennant, 1997). Some of the strengths that I have are strong visualization, ability to imagine and good at generating ideas looking at different perspectives. Learning by experimentation, group work activities, sharing experiences, gaining knowledge and meeting new people are the best way of learning.
Anthony F Gregorc categorizes "a person's learning ability based on his Mind Styles model (1969) to his/her perceptual preference and ordering preference". The type of thinkers that possibly could be is Concrete Sequential Thinkers, Concrete Random Thinkers, Abstract Random and Abstract Sequential Thinkers. After taking a series of Gregorc's tests, I found myself evaluated more of an Abstract Random (AR) and Concrete Random (CR) learner than Concrete sequential (CR) or Abstract Sequential (AS) types. This was strikingly similar to my kind of thinking. I like to do lots of experiments and organise information through reflection. I use trial and error method to solve the problem and also involve in lots of group work. Gregorc's method is what I would do on the long run as I have been doing till now.
Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences model is viewed as "the capacity to solve problems that are valued in one or more cultural setting", (Hatch & Gardner, 1989). Gardner assessed individuals on the basis of seven intelligences they are: Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical, Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Spatial, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal. I took a series of multiple intelligence tests. My results in Gardner's multiple intelligences were satisfying because it did match my ability although I was expecting more score in Kinesthetic too. I scored high on Musical Intelligence which is defined as awareness, appreciation and use of sound; recognition of tonal and rhythmic patterns, understands relationship between sound and feeling, and I had a feeling that even Kinesthetic would suite me because I do work better once I lay my hands on it.
Taking a series of VAK tests I was more of a auditory learner than a Kinesthetic or visual learner. The results show that my learning orientation is mostly through transfer of information through listening: to the spoken word, of self or others, of sounds and noises. Every learning style model has its strengths and weaknesses. As I examined myself relating to the results that I got from this VAK test, I found myself equal in all the three learning styles, i.e., Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. So I would say that this test is not perfect enough to judge ones learning style. I took Felder & Soloman learning style strategies tests and found out that I am more of Active, Sensing, Visual and Global learner rather than Reflective, Intuitive, Verbal and Sequential learner.Analyse Professional Skills
The more you work and progress on your life the more you learn and develop your skills and implement it on your personal life as well as on your professional life. One cannot adopt a particular theory alone and work on it. Some of the skills that I considered myself being good at are,
- Creating High-Performing Teams Skills
- Communicating Effectively Skills
- Managing Relationships Skills
Creating High-Performing Teams
I along with my friends decided to organise an inter-college music competition in my college in INDIA. It was a tough job because there are many things to be taken care of. As I was one of the main organisers, I called up my friends to plan the event. We had to invite all the state colleges, get the funding from different companies by advertising their products or the company itself, installation of sound system, media, stage, prizes and other needed materials had to be arranged. I was involved in a good relationship with my college principal and the owner of the college, also with those advertising company managers. This was one of the major event that I was about to handle and it took many days to create a good plan. To implement it, professional skills were required.
I made different groups and gave them different jobs, but soon I found out that there was a problem inside these groups, they were pointing out each other to do the jobs that was assigned to them and part of the jobs were left incomplete. Cottrell (2003) suggested that "regardless of being a leader or not in a team, you have to put the team's goal first". Then I found out which team worked effectively and asked that team to help the other teams which were struggling with their given work. Cottrell (2003) suggested for work distribution that "we should work to our strengths by different members of a team contributing in different areas". It's always good to see other teams contributing and that will make the entire organisation to work hard to complete their job with some competitiveness involved. Ronald D. Smith (2002) says "Communication tactics are the visible elements of a strategic plan. Tactics are also the elements of the plan that can carry a hefty price tag, so planning and coordination is particularly important". So when we do all these things well, we can form high-performing teams.
After doing a deep analysis I finally concluded that all we had to do was constantly talk to the team leader of each group about executing the plans. According to Belbin's theory (2000), "a team must have a coordinator, a doer, a thinker, a supporter and a challenger". Then it is easy to achieve the objectives. I took Cattell's 16 factors test and I scored high in Social Assertiveness, i.e., high percentage of being uninhibited and bold, but most of the factors marks were almost close to each other which suggested that I was almost balanced, which means that I can handle any work that I was assigned to until and unless I follow the theories that I have mentioned above. I spoke about the importance of each and every person in the groups and told them how we can sort out the issue. "Team is defined as any group of people that have repetitive interaction for a common purpose" by Marc Hanlan (2004). Some of the works that were left undone had to be done again, I didn't form a team with any preparation and the major fault was my strategy was not up to the mark.
Marc Hanlan (2004) defined seven stages of work activities that should be followed in order for a high-performing team to produce high performance:
- Strategy and Purpose
- Readiness Assessment
- Leaders Preparation
- Data Collection
- Team Preparation
- Work Re/Design
Using the above template activities a team can become successful at generating better results.PLANNING AHEAD
Benjamin Franklin says "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." In future, when I organise any event and form a high-performing team, I will follow Cottrell (2003) to make sure that team works in an effective and efficient way without any hurdle. That's how one can form a high-performing team. Belbin (2000) helped me to provide important roles for each individual in a group. These experiences which I gained along with Cattell's test have helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses, how to improve on it and what else can be done to achieve the target. Marc Hanlan's (2004) seven stages of template activities have thought me of how to form an effective high-performing team.Communicating Effectively
During the final year of my undergraduate studies, I joined a small company named McCoy BPO. We had connection with all the major mobile networks of UK, and also we used to sell the contract phones for them. The company had altogether 12 employees and I was responsible for this current project work that we were running. Effective communication was required to make them understand the project as well as updates. I conducted a series of training sessions for my group mates, thought them about the voice and accent, how to approach the customers and more importantly how to handle the problems that might occur when one on call. Once or twice in a week I used to play their recordings to let them know what mistakes they are making and how can they overcome it.
While the process was going on we found ourselves in a very difficult situation, there was a huge margin between the current result and the expected result. Proper and effective communication was required in order to solve it. As I am an accommodating learner, I believe in doing things, taking risk to solve the problems and I perform well to immediate circumstances, and I am more of diverging learner too. I respect people's emotions and find out how things can be worked out without hurting anyone. My group mates started taking things easily. I realised that I had a great challenge ahead of me; moreover I had to answer my boss regarding the unexpected decrease in the current sales. I did consider my group mates problems as they weren't good at speaking English, so this disturbed the quality of the work. Therefore I had to analyse myself and then realised that I made a mistake by handing them my format of sales documents which suited for my style. Even though I encouraged them but never realised something's are better to be discussed. I then found out what actually can be done, as a leader I sat with them and wrote the format which suits them better so that it would be easy for them to progress their sales. This time I had to follow converging learning style so that I could command them to achieve the target that the company wanted to.
"Communication is one of the most persuasive, important, and complex aspects of human life." (Littlejohn, 2002). I thought everything was fixed once the training was over; I should have kept on analysing their work and could have produced better results with some strategy to stop what had happened. I took Myers-Briggs personality test which resulted in ESTP, which says that I prefer to experience and accept life rather than to judge or organize it. I had a sense of how things work out, and this ability of mine kept me going. "The vital elements of the communication process are the source, encoding, the message, the medium, decoding, the receiver, and feedback by Susan K. Jacobson (2009)". I did listen to my group mates and analysed their difficult as per Coleman's statements. "Through active listening one has the ability to understand and solve problems successfully (Coleman 2003)".
Jim Rohn says "Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know." In terms of effective communication, I have learned that, when I handle a group I would try understanding every individual person and try to work with them accordingly. (Tom Peters) 1987 says that "Success will come to those who love chaos - constant change - not those who attempt to eliminate it."Managing Conflict
While doing my final yr computer science programme, I had to concentrate on my final yr project work and I was also into music production as well as recording songs for few advertisements. Apart from that, I was writing lyrics for my upcoming album too. I have been working on my album for some time now. It was almost the end of the semester and I had to do my final semester project. The joyful news was I got music production works from few advertising companies as well at that time. This was the starting stage of my career in music profession and it was more important to me to go ahead with my aim. I had my revision exams and even my practical exams were nearing.
It was very difficult for me to manage the conflict, whether to concentrate on music or education and since music was my first preference so I couldn't let that go, which was my self-interest. Moreover the major issue that I was facing was deadline. It wasn't just day's work; it took me weeks to complete one entire song. I was spending much of my days composing music and recording songs while my concentration was less on the project work, exams were nearing too. The project was a group work; I could only contribute 40-50 % towards it while my group mate did the major work. Everything was enigma to me due to lack of concentration on my studies. My friend didn't like that way I was doing the project because and I sometimes postponed the group meeting. It was very stressful and I had to make a decision about it. I had to send 3 samples music works to all of those advertising agencies, each of them should be of different styles. After checking my composition they would tell if they need any changes, otherwise they will finalize it. I had a feeling that I could have done better in project too; my group mate struggled a lot to help me while I did little of what he expected from me.
There was a huge problem in front of me. I could see the following Symptoms that occurred to me, Motivation level dropped, changes in behaviour, sickness absence increased and low responses. Communication level was poor between me and my friend. I did a personal time analysis by following Time-Use log of Ray G. Helmer (1998). The reason why I did was I didn't want to avoid or compromise on one thing. Project work, exams and music all are important. It's a daily time log of how we are going to plan our day. It helped me a lot to cut all the unwanted interruptions and to concentrate on what I had to finish first. After I started using the time log system, I knew what I had to do and how to minimize time that I used to waste. I wanted to convert my destructive conflict into constructive conflict. "It is through communication that conflict is initiated, expressed, maintained, escalated and resolved" by Sandra D. Collins and James S. O'Rourke (2008). I kept on postponing works, but never realised that it would bring me trouble. I changed from being lazy and started working according to these theories.
I am going to use time use summary technique to execute my plan without any difficulty because that will reduce my stress. Apart from that I learnt how to deal with problems and solve it. Avoiding postponement is something that I worked on. I will definitely follow the above theories as it had been fruitful to me after implementing it before and would continue to do so.Conclusion
"Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better." by Jim Rohn. Throughout my learning phase, it is evident that I used Kolb's Experimental Learning Style (1984) to develop and practice my skills. My learning journal evaluates three different professional skills and those are: 1. Creating High-Performing Teams, 2. Communication Effectively and 3. Managing Conflict. Some of these theories helped me to improve on my weaknesses and now I follow these models to achieve my goals. It is easier for me to take up any challenge and perform the action well and improve my skills to become a successful individual.
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