The purpose of this chapter is to explain the personal learning achieved and highlight what new competencies, knowledge were gained during the course. More importantly, how such learning has helped the researcher to improve certain skills that will benefit the researcher's performance in the work place.
6.1 Learning style
My journey to complete this dissertation is similar to Kolb's learning cycle in many respects. Kolb's (1984) learning theory offers both a way to understand an individual people's different learning styles and also an explanation of a cycle of experiential learning that can apply to learning in the work place(see figure 6.1). Kolb's model sets out four learning styles which are based on a four-stage learning cycle.
Figure 6.1 Kolb's learning cycle
The effective learner relies on four different learning modes. Concrete experience (CE) provides a basis for reflective observation (RO). These observations can be distilled into abstract concepts (AC), which are then tested with active experimentation (AE).
According to Kolb (1984), Accommodators have the most hands-on approach, with a strong preference for doing rather than thinking. They do not like routine and will take creative risks to see what happens. They like to explore complexity by directs interaction and learn better by themselves than with other people. As might be expected, they like hands-on and practical learning rather than lectures. Divergers take experiences and think deeply about them, thus diverging from a single experience to multiple possibilities in terms of what this might mean. They enjoy participating and working with others but they like a calm ship and fret over conflicts. They are generally influenced by other people and like to receive constructive feedback.
Convergers think about things and then try out their ideas to see if they work in practice. They like facts and will seek to make things efficient by making small and careful changes. They prefer to work by themselves, thinking carefully and acting independently. They learn through interaction and computer-based learning is more effective with them than other methods. Assimilators have the most cognitive approach, preferring to think than to act. They prefer lectures for learning, with demonstrations where possible, and will respect eh knowledge of experts. They will also learn though conversation that takes a logical and thoughtful approach.
Honey and Mumford (1986) developed this cycle into a set of individual learning style later. They are named: activist, reflector, theorist, and pragmatist.
Activists. They learn best from new experiences and challenges. They like problem solving excitement and situations where new ideas can be developed without constraints of policy and structure
Reflectors. They learn when they are allowed or encouraged to watch or think on activities. They carry out careful, detailed research and need time to think before acting.
Theorists. They explore methodically the associations between ideas, events and situations. They best learn from activities where what is being offered is a part of a system or theory.
Pragmatists. They learn best where there is an obvious link between the subject matter and a "real life" problem. They like to have a chance to try out and practice techniques with coaching or feedback from a credible expert. They also like to implement what they have learned.
6.2 Self learning and reflections
My learning style is a combination of the theorist (very strong) and reflector (moderate) styles after Kolb's learning style test. This meant that both the advantage and disadvantages of these individual styles had a great influence on my approach to this dissertation. The advantage of having a reflector's approach to certain aspects of research meant that research into relevant literary resources was undertaken with great attention to the structure and detail. However, a considerable larger amount of time than usually required was spent exploring different approaches to reviewing particular topics. In addition, I have a strong theorist approach to learning, which meant that the approach to the dissertation was arranged in a logical, step by step process. Being a reflector also helped me draw logical conclusions from the data collected and connect different pieces of research-theory, data and findings, together in a coherent manner.
The dissertation presented me with a challenge by having a specific time period for completion and by having specific requirements in terms of its structure, presentation. A time limitation meant that the reflector could not spend too much time analysing various aspects elaborately. In complying with the requirements of structure, approach of the dissertation, the theorist's own logical structure had to be modified into one that would meet the requirement so this research. Therefore, by being able to successful complete the dissertation; I have been able to overcome these limitations. On top of that I have identified the following topics which have contributed to my learning as I reflect on my own learning throughout the course; these skills and their usefulness are discussed in detail in the next section.
6.3 The research topic
Defining research topic was the starting point of the dissertation. When I was asked to find a research topic for the proposal in research method module, I did not realise the difficulties would encountered to have a suitable research topic could meet the requirements set out by the course. After the wide range of reading and careful consideration on the research methods, I finally decided on this topic.
From this experience, I have learned firstly, choose a research topic not only depend on my interest but also its practicability, the sample population, the research approach and the methods to carry out a research should be considered. A task should not be taken for granted before having a clear picture of what it involves. Secondly, find a worthwhile research topic by identify the similarities and gaps from the wide range of reading.
6.4 Research skills and writing skills
The research skills of the researcher have improved significantly in the one year MSc course. Especially for this dissertation, I went through every single important part of research process and to start with, setting research objectives gave me a chance to think in more practical manner; drawing some conclusive results of the research from the data collection gave me a chance to learn various approaches and the real implementation in the research.
Data analysis was one of the most important part of this research for me, as it requires some mathematical and computer knowledge to present the data. I have learned and obtained good knowledge of SPSS during the process which helps me in future career. Moreover, I had felt lack of ability to put my own thought into a smooth sentence without any grammar mistakes at the beginning of the course as English is not my first language. This MSc course helped me develop and fine-tune report writing skill significantly.
6.5 Time management and project management
Writing a dissertation is challenging task and time management was crucial in the successful completion of the dissertation. It requires effort and stamina over long period of time. Writing a time line gives realistic estimate of how long various dissertation stages will take to complete has a number of benefits:
Firstly, Timeline is about breaking down dissertation into smaller goals which is easier to approach to, thereby the smaller goals can be completed in a week time and generally require less motivation and less energy. Secondly, it can help me to focus and direct the energy toward completing specific, tangible goals every week. Timelines can be an important energy management tool to help focus the energy and increase productivity and make concrete progress. Finally, it enables to have a greater sense of control over the dissertation process.
I found it helped in dissertation process by following the steps above. Small goals for every part of dissertation were set up instead of thinking that deadline date in September. First of all, I made realistic goals for every month, over period of 4 month, and then split the monthly tasks to weekly action plan. During the writing process I prioritise the tasks according to their value and importance which helped me to make better use of time and a tangible sense of accomplishment of a regular basis. What I have learned is a great strategy of breaking up the workload into the small manageable task, and project management includes setting the study goals and implementing various study technique and selecting the more appropriate approach by make "TO DO" list.
6.6 Self studying and pressure handling
I have learned so much through the master course and by self-study. I have been inspired by many books and articles which helped me to go through the writing process as well. When I felt stuck and ran out ideas to continue; I had doubts that I will not finish it before deadline that made me panic. Fortunately, I got over it and moved on.
My positive attitude also helped me to overcome these problems and complete the dissertation process. Successfully completing this dissertation was one of the most demanding experiences of my life and writing this dissertation has been a remarkable journey of learning, persistence and patience.
The MSc International Banking and Finance course has done a great value of addition to my knowledge and this dissertation is the final and usually the most difficult hurdle stands between student and their being awarded a master degree.
Personally speaking, the dissertation stage of the course is the most challenging and interesting part of my learning, as it explores so many fields of study and gives me the most valuable leaning experience.