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After I had started my first year at University I realised that if I want to become a successful student it is crucial to develop time-management skills. It is based on identifying our goals, prioritising and listing them in order to help us achieve the best result. We also need to identify our strengths, look at our work and think how we could improve it to get a better result in the future. We can do so using a diary or personal organiser. Time-management skills are very important because if we know how to organize our time properly, we can carry out more and meet deadlines. It is important to start with setting our priorities because sometimes there is no time to complete all of them. We need to be aware that some of them might take longer than we expected so we should write somewhere what we want to do and when we want to do it.
We should start with identifying our goals and priorities. When doing so, we need to be realistic and definite about them. We must precise what needs to be done, how and when. Then, it is recommended to start keeping an academic diary or a personal organizer where we can write in everything we do (such us important dates or study activities). It will help us to look at the way we work and identify where further improvements can be made. (Oxford Brookes University) To take the most out of the diary we should always carry it with us and keep it up to date. It is also recommended to check it many times a day and add new tasks straight into it. The last step is to identify how we spend the time in order to see if we use it productively. We need to list the work we have to do and precise the amount of time we want to spend on carrying out particular tasks. The most important things should be highlighted or stared that can be easily seen, where the least important ones should be written in a pencil so we can change or remove them easily. (Cottrell S., 2003)
The first thing I did in order to improve my time-management skills was doing some background reading. I used a chapter of a book recommended by my tutor as well as some online resources. It gave me understanding of which steps should be taken in order to became successful. I started with identifying my goal, which was preparing a good set of notes for my oncoming exam. Then I started writing in a diary activities I was planning to do. The most important ones I wrote in using a pen (such as searching for material for my notes) and less important in pencil (like going to the store or meeting someone). The following, I highlighted the most important one so every time I opened my diary it was the first thing I saw. It was a reminder of what is need to be done. Then I identified how much time I want to spend on these tasks.
This technique helped me a lot with organizing my time. Now I know that before my problem had lied in spending too much time on unimportant things, therefore I had not had too much time to complete everything I wanted. After getting into a routine of planning my time and studying at set times I am more systematic and precise.
Cottrell, S. (2003). The CREAM strategy for learning. In: The Study Skills Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. p74-76.
Oxford Brookes University. (2012). Time management. Available: http://www.brookes.ac.uk/student/services/health/time.html. Last accessed 12th Jan 2013.
3. Theme 2: Developing an academic writing style
Theme: Developing an academic writing style
As an international student I am even more aware of the importance of well-developed writing skills. It is crucial because the better our skills in writing are, the more flexible we can be while writing. There is no definitive definition what an academic writing style is but there are five technical qualities that help making a piece of writing academic. It needs to be Formal, Others, Cautious, Succinct, Impersonal (FOSCI). However, we need to start with developing a habit of writing which is fundamental when working on academic essays and writing under time and exam conditions.
First what we should do is build up our confidence in writing. We can start with writing one world several times and find out our writing style. When a habit of writing is already developed, we need to get used to writing continuously. To do so, it is recommended to try to write for at least five minutes, whatever the content is. We can use this piece of writing in next step where we need to rewrite already done piece of work and add the new detail to it (such us information, opinion). Further step is focused on rewriting that piece and playing with what we have already written (changing the words, the orders). Then comes organising material where we highlight each idea in a different colour. Then rewriting the passage so colours are grouped. It is also important to know how to overcome writerââ‚¬â„¢s block. We can for example write in pencil (it will remind us that this is a draft so mistakes are allowed and nobody needs to see it). We can also write on the computer where we can use a spellchecker. (Cottrell S., 2003)
I decided to improve my academic writing skills because I know how it can affect my grades. I applied this technique in several steps. I started with writing in pencil about my first day in Scotland to get used to writing. I was doing it constantly for 5 minutes. Then, I read it and changed some words and added more details to it. The following, I have rewritten it and checked the grammar and spelling mistakes. Next, I again rewritten the piece but this time in different colours, each relating to a different section: what I saw, how I felt, what I wanted to do. While rewriting the last draft, I was grouping sections together so it looked all tidied up and therefore easier for the reader to understand. The final piece I have rewritten on my computer and checked for unnoticed spelling and grammar mistakes.
This technique was time consuming as required rewriting each piece of work several times but it is really worth it. The time I spent on getting used to using this technique took me nearly two weeks but it was really worth it. It paid me off with better-quality and enriched in details work in later days, when I was working on my coursework.
Cottrell, S. (2003). Writing for university. In: The Study Skills Handbook. 2nd ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. p143-148.
4. Theme 4: Self-knowledge
In order to take some more control in my life and improve my performance I am going to improve my self-knowledge skills. Self-knowledge is about knowing ourselves intimately. It means knowing and understanding our inner feelings, motivations, weaknesses, strengths, motivations, desires, skills, etc. and how they affect our behaviour (Ong T., 2004). This is the starting point when developing a skill and in achieving set goals. When is well-developed, increases our confidence and chances of success. It allows us to turn our weaknesses into strengths and present ourselves well to others, develop confidence or set our priorities for creating new skills.
It is essential to know where are we starting from. Therefore we need to estimate to ourselves what we want to improve and how are we going to improve it. There are many ways of developing it, such as self-evaluation questionnaires, psychometric tests, reflective journals or using tutor feedback on our work. All of these are valuable because are giving people an objective view of how they behave and compare in outlook with others. It is also recommended to put ourselves in new situations, go to new places, experimenting new hobbies (exploring unfamiliar roles and situations ââ‚¬" we often discover new things about ourselves when we're in unusual situations, or facing new challenges. (Mind Tools, 2012) It is also essential to write every day about our thoughts, feelings and emotions because regular writing improves self-knowledge (Cottrell S., 2003). It builds our emotional fluency and helps to find out things we need to work at in order to improve our performance.
To understand more about myself I am going to do a self-evaluation questionnaire or psychometric test. It will give me basic understanding of who I am and what should I work at, what my traits and preferences are. Then, I am going to apply the second step. I will present myself with new situation. I am planning to go the gym to attend aerobic class by my own. Because I had never been at this place before, I will be surrounded by strangers. I hope this experience will help me to discover new things about myself and how I deal with some of the aspects of my life. The following, I will write in my diary about my feelings of that experience and reflect on that. I believe that the collection of writing will help me understand the range of emotions I have experienced. I believe that out emotional self-analyse is a key-point in order to improve our performance.
Mind Tools. (2012). Coaching to Develop Self-Awareness. Available: Coaching to Develop Self-Awareness. Last accessed 12th Jan 2013.
Tim Ong. (2004). The Importance of Self Knowledge. Available: http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Importance-of-Self-Knowledge&id=3560883. Last accessed 12th Jan 2013.
5. Theme 4: Becoming a reflective practitioner
Theme: Becoming a reflective practitioner
To improve my overall performance it is important to reflect on our work. Therefore I decided to improve my reflective practise skills. It is imperative because it helps us to better understanding of the work we are doing when we do it as well as after we have done it. It is critical evaluation of all the available evidence. Its purpose is reflecting on what went wrong and how we could possibly improve it and reflecting on what went good and thinking why it went good. It improves our evaluation skills, action plan for success as well as develops answers to our difficulties.
Our performance is likely to increase when we know how to reflect on our work. Things like studying are going to improve when we look at things such as our motivation, skills needed, things that disturb us and so on. There are several methods of developing the act of reflection while studying: writing a learning journal, using the self-evaluation questionnaires, keeping portfolio, using the tutorsââ‚¬â„¢ feedback on our work or filling the progress sheets. In order to reflect on personal, academic and professional development we can start off with writing down anything we can reflect on. Such as our feelings about our friends or people we work with, the things we struggle with or the things we want to achieve. How everything we have learnt relate to real life or things we want to change. Writing our emotions down will help us to simplify our inner feelings, to work out plans and to focus on our development. The final step is reflecting on what we have learnt from the previous situation to the next one. (Cottrell S., 2003)
To improve my overall performance as a student at the University I am aware that it is crucial to start reflecting on my work and see what I do wrong or well. After doing some background reading, I decided to improve my reflective practise skills. To do so, I am going to use my copies of the assessments with the tutorsââ‚¬â„¢ comments on them. Then I am going to write down all the mistakes I have done and reflect on them, asking myself what I did wrong and why I did it and being focused on what skills I need to avoid this next time and how am I going to achieve this. I believe this will bring me a wider understanding of my mistakes and allow me to see what I could possibly improve and change to get a better grade. In the next step I am going to be focused on filling the progress sheets for each module. I believe this activity will enhance my motivation because it will allow me to see the progress I am making and see the things I did wrong and therefore this will be helpful in avoiding them. In my final step will be reflecting on what I have learnt from the previous situation and applying it to the next one. I think this step is very important because when we are aware of what had gone possibly wrong, we can avoid making the same mistakes next time, improving our work and performance.