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1. What has motivated you to study social work?
My motivation to study social work comes from my passion about helping people who are less advantaged. Having spent the last five years working in a social care environment helped me to realise that my passion lies in helping the most vulnerable members of our society. I found working as a Care Assistant extremely challenging but also rewarding. Attending a multi-disciplinary care reviews gave me a great insight into a social worker role. I found out that social work can help service users maintain their dignity and independence, give wider choices of support, protect from abuse as well as reduce admissions to hospital. I hope that studying social work will give me a valuable skills and knowledge needed for effective professional practice as a social worker.
2. What type of learner are you?
Last year on the Access course through the exercise on the class I have identified my learning style [Appendix 1]. Knowing and understanding my learning style helped me to learn more effectively and identify opportunities to improve my learning.
According to Honey and Mumford (1982) Learning Style Model I perform strongly as a Reflector. As a Reflector I learn by observing and thinking about what happened. I like to stand back and observe experiences from many different perspectives. I like to collect information (the more that better), and prefer to think about it thoroughly before coming to any conclusions. I prefer to take a back seat in meetings and discussions. I always listen to others before making my own point. I learn less well when being thrown in at the deep end with no time to prepare and when acting as leader or role-playing in front of others. Having identified my learning style, I now understand that as a reflector I am a 'slow' learner and require more time to study, that is why it is important to plan my study effectively. I also need to try to get involved more in meeting and discussions instead of sitting back and listen.
My preferred style of learning was also determined by completing the Learning Styles Questionnaire on C_Space [Appendix 2]. According to the questionnaire I learn best by visual way. Information presented in pictures, diagrams or charts is easily remembered. I like to watch the lecturer closely and be able to see the teacher body language to fully understand the content of a lesson. I also like to use colours in my studies such as coloured markers to highlight information. As a visual learner it is important to make sure that I sit always in a position in the classroom where I can see things clearly.
3. How do others perceive your values and abilities?
Recently I asked my best friend how they perceive my values and abilities. The feedback I have been given was as follow:
You are sensible, cautious, careful & practical. I see you as clever, gifted, or talented, but modest. Not a person who makes friends too quickly or easily, but someone who's extremely loyal to friends you do make and who expects the same loyalty in return. Those who really get to know you realize it takes a lot to shake your trust in your friends, but equally that it takes you a long time to get over if that trust is ever broken.
My fellow students see me as confident, open minded and positive person. So far, the feedback form my tutors was always positive, however I am prepared to can take negative feedback. Receiving feedback is great opportunity to gain useful information and insight into what we need to develop or improve in order to grow professionally.
4. How do you approach learning? How have you improved your skills for study (including IT)?
Having developed a number of strategies and techniques on last year course enabled me to make the most efficient use of my time, resources, and potential. I approach my studies strategically and systematically by working out where to invest my time and energies.
Choosing the right place to study is important as I work most effectively in a well - organised study area. I like to work in a comfortable and free from distractions place with a good lighting and a room to spread my book and papers.
Time management is "a vehicle that can carry you from wherever you are to wherever you want to be" (Tracy 2007:2)
Time management in the key skill to handle my coursework and to get it done on time. Good time management skills enable me to utilise my time in a more effective way and allow me to accomplish more tasks in a shortest possible way. A study time table is an essential ingredient in effective time management. I have created a weekly time table [Appendix 3 ] to help me organise my day-today tasks, which keeps me positive and focused on my studying, and helps me achieve my targets. I have also learned to prioritise my work by doing the small and easy tasks first and taking them out of the way, before trying to tackle larger pieces of work. I have created "things to do" list [Appendix 4]. I use it to set daily priorities and to reduce decision making and worry.
The ability to make clear and concise notes is another important skill that I have developed through my study. Taking notes helps me to gain a deeper understanding of the subject and capture the essential points of the topic. It also helps to make sense of what is to be learned and to remember it later. Having identified my preferred learning style I know now that I work well with patterned notes, such as nuclear, spider grams, diagrammatic and mind maps. This method was described by Buzan (1992) in his book "Use your head". He calls the technique "Mind Mapping". Mind maps allow for greater activity when recording ideas and information, as well as allowing the note-taker to associate words with visual representations (Buzan, 1992). Patterned notes involve writing the main topic in the centre of the page, and then write related ideas around it and link them up to show their relationship to the main idea. Pattern notes are more visual, and are very active form of learning. For example of my note taking please see [Appendix 5]. I have also learned how to read effectively by being selective, scanning, skimming and questioning as I read.
Computer helps me to study in many different ways. It helps me to research online for information, make structured notes, creating charts, graphs and tables and to organise and keep track of my studies. Although I have used computer in the past there was areas that I still had to improve. Last year on the access course I have learned how to work with spread sheets, databases, and create a power point presentation, which helped me to improve my IT skills. [Appendix 6]
5. What factors affect your learning?
Having many responsibilities as an adult learner I must balance against the demands of learning. Personally, the factor affecting my learning is English as a second language I do find it hard at the times to express myself in the way that I wish to. It also lower my confidence and self - esteem. Being subject to jokes about my funny accent in the past made me feel nervous when speaking in front of others. However, my confidence in that area improved dramatically since starting the course.
Distractions while studying could be another area that affects my learning. I need a quiet and organised place to study without any interruption. I have learned to minimise distractions while I work by encouraging others to respect my rights to work without interruption. I keep my phone off when I am studying to avoid phone calls that could disturb my learning.
Self - esteem and lack of confidence. Before I took an Access Course my self - esteem as well as confidence were very low. I did not believe in my abilities and felt very anxious about going back to education after a long break. Having a positive feedback from the tutors as well as fellow students helped me to build up my self- esteem and become a confident student.
6. How do you become an effective problem solver in your life?
Problem solving is one of the key skills in social work practice. Social workers use a problem - solving approach in working with individuals, families, groups and communities. As a social work student, it is very important to me to become an effective problem solver.
In my personal life I have learned confronting rather than avoiding problems. I tend to solve my problems using a simple technique. The first stage is to define the problem. To understand why the problem exist and looking at the root cause of the problem. Secondly I explore the problem by looking at how does the problem affect me or others? The next step is looking for possible solutions and selecting a realistic solution that is most relevant to me. Finally I put my solution into action. It is however important to evaluate the effectiveness of my solution.
7. How do you become more effective, independent and confident self- directed learner?
Self-directed learning is " a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes"(Knowles, 1975:14).
According to Malcolm Knowles (1984) adults learn differently than young people. In his theory of adult learning Knowles pointed that adults are self- directed in their learning. "As a person matures his self-concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being" (Knowles, 1984:12).
As an adult student I take responsibility for my learning processes, such as goal-setting, instructional design and evaluation of my learning process. Being organised helps me to manage my studies effectively.
In order to become more independent learner I need to be motivated to learn, able to manage my time effectively, and reflect upon my learning. Effectiveness of learning depend on "having your state of mind, space, time, and materials organised in the ways that best suit your learning" (Cottrell, 2008:67).
8. How did you work cooperatively with others??
I am a part of a Care team working in a care home for people with dementia. Being a part of the team I have learned how to work co- operatively with my work colleagues. As a team member I have learn contribute to achieving the goal of meeting the needs of clients.
Apart from work I also work co - operatively with others in group work tasks on classes. We were put to groups to complete specific task. I worked cooperatively by sharing my ideas, being and active listener, respect other people views, work together with the members of group to complete the task successfully. Working in groups gave me a great opportunity to gain confidence and develop interpersonal skills, such as active listening and questioning and communication skills.
9. How do you relate your learning to the contemporary context of social work practice?
Working in a Social Care as a Carer my role involves providing practical support, and enabling service users to maintain their independence to lead fuller and secure life. I also build partnerships with people I work with, trying to win them trust and encouraging them to cope and get most out of life. I relate my learning to the contemporary context of social work by implementing my current skills and knowledge to my work settings. Skills such as interpersonal skills help me to understand the importance of actively listening and empathising with service users in order to enter the world from their point of view. I am also more aware about the group dynamics in my work place and importance of effective team working in order to achieve the desire outcomes. Since doing the degree I also developed an anti - discriminatory practice. I started to relate the theories to practice to understand the causes of discrimination and ways to challenge it effectively.