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One major requirement of the masters programme is the APM which is an evaluation of the students' know-how on the thought courses during the first and second semester. It gives them the opportunity to put into practise the skills and knowledge acquired which will definitely be required in the corporate environment.
The reflective report is a very important aspect of learning and its main purpose is to put into writing my personal experiences and encounters in the group dynamic learning process during the course of writing the applied management project (AMP)
As human beings we reflect on a particular issue in order to consider it more critically and find out what comes out of it. Reflection is not a recent study, philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Confucius all wrote about it. Usually when people reflect they expect an outcome which may have a positive and sometimes negative effect on learning. Reflection is a very important component of good learning in which new experiences have to be compared with existing knowledge in order to make sense of a particular situation or circumstance and the best way of achieving this is by reflection.
Reflection is a way of processing ones experience mentally; it involves a lot of thinking which is aimed at achieving a particular or specific goal. It is usually not structured and sometime complicated which makes the outcome unpredictable and uncertain.
Reflection is use to gain a better understanding of an idea by reprocessing knowledge. Reflection is one very important activity by humans which helps to recapture their past experience, it gives people the opportunity think about a situation, evaluate it and draw reasonable conclusion from It. It was defined by Rogers as using one's own experience to provide learning, he said that self-initiated learning concerns the whole person, both feelings and intellect, and in this way the learning becomes lasting and pervasive. (Rogers, 1986)
Reflection usually involves carefully pondering over an experience that one has encounter in the past in order to guide future behaviour. The knowledge gained from reflection is use to gain fresh insights, understanding and self awareness.
When one interacts with others it helps the individual make sense of what they know by relating feedbacks collected with current understanding on the part of the individual. In other to make sense of a something we have learn we have to reflect over it and get to understand why we learnt it and how that knowledge will impact our understanding.
Individuals reflect for different reasons but the aim is usually the same which is to understand a particular situation better. Learning normally begins with experiencing an event. Experience on its own is not sufficient enough for good learning but what enables us as people to benefit from a particular situation is what makes learning beneficial to individuals. In order to learn from that event one has to reflect on it in such a manner that you will be able to recall when need be. The primary purpose of the reflective report is to show the experiences gathered as a result of the group dynamics and interaction while writing the AMP. The information will be collected using log books, diary of events and journals. The report will also touch on other issues such as the importance of reflection and the challenges faced during the AMP.
In summary, reflection is a way of looking back at previous experiences and drawing useful conclusions from them in other to help improve further performance.
Importance of Reflection
Reflection is a very critical part of learning and most educators agree that reflection is very important in the learning process. Taking out time to think about how well ones work is going and how much you have learnt from it is a very important part of good learning. It is generally agreed that reflection is fundamental to learning because it helps encourage better learning processes by challenging learners to think with complicated materials which helps them gain the ability to deal with such difficulties. For example when a new student is faced with an assignment he/she may find it difficult in doing it because of the lack of experience in sourcing for materials but when given an assignment a second time it is going to be a lot easier because he/she can reflect on the previous work and draw on useful experience from doing it. Reflection brings about learning according to Race the process gives the individual a chance to perform better in the future. In a situation where individual was unsuccessful the reflection process will help the individual learn from past mistake in order to create a better performance in the future (Race, 2002).In essence it helps build the skills and techniques necessary for better learning. It also gives people the opportunity to look at their own behaviour and the behaviour of other people within the context off their social and academic environment. As a masters' student reflection is very important and helpful to me because it will help me bridge the gap that exist between theory and practice.
Recollection of experience
In this section the process of writing the AMP will be broken down into stages and analysed. Conclusions will also be made in each of this stages showing lessons learnt from my experiences.
First Stage: pre-induction week
It was a very tense period for me and most of my course mates because we did not know what to expect from the AMP. Information we got from previous students were not encouraging because most spoke about the difficulties they went through in writing the project and in some cases did not graduate as a result of the AMP. All this made the AMP look like an impossibility to me.
Lesson Learnt: I said to myself if people have done it in the past and passed why will I be any different. From that moment I made up my mind to be very attentive during the induction seminar and take nothing for granted.
Second Stage: The induction week
The induction week was a five day seminar which was compulsory for all masters' students of IHRM. It was more or less an orientation week for us but this time around it was not for new students but instead it was for students who were about to write their last piece of work before graduation. The hall was filled up with my course mate and we all kept on going on how far we had come from orientation and gradually getting close to graduation. I thought about the many challenges I faced as an international student coming to study in the United Kingdom both culturally and educationally. The speakers talk about how to source for information using the universities data base and other reliable sources, how to avoid plagiarism and the consequences one will face if he/she is found to plagiarise. He also talked about the proper referencing and the reflective analysis report.
The seminar thought me a lot on how to source better for journals and other write ups within the university database that I never knew existed. The speaker also touched on the how to research effectively and how to get the right keywords while carrying out the research. By the end of the day we were told to form groups because we were going to work as a group for a few days during the induction week.
Forming the Group
The process of group formation was very challenging because it involved students from different background, orientation and understanding. It was also confessing because most people wanted to work with people they were familiar with so as to make it easier but the requirements for the group formation made it difficult to do that. I ended up forming a group with a few of my friends and unfortunately we had to disallow two from joining our group because we had already reach the maximum number required and this did not go well with them but we did not have a choice. For any group to be successful the members have to have a common objective or goal and they have to share the same expectation of the task at hand. We were handed the AMP topic by the lecture after confirming that we met the requirement as a group. I was taking aback by the project topic because it looked very confessing not just to me but all members of the group. We decide to take it home do some research and see what we could come up with so we could have a clearer picture of what was required of us.
By the end of the induction week it was a little clearer to me but I still did not have the confidence that I will be able to pull through without some kind of help from my group members. We agreed to meet a few more times so we could brain storm and share ideas for a better understanding of the topic.
Lesson learnt: One very important lesson I learnt was how to source effectively for information from within and outside the schools database. Secondly, I learnt the importance of proper referencing, the implication of plagiarism and how to avoid it. Thirdly, it made me understand better what was expected of me from the AMP.
Third Stage: Writing the Project
The induction week had come and gone and it was time to face the main work which was writing the project. I was confused and disorganised about the whole thing not knowing where to start, there was nobody to guide me or even talk to. Other members of the group were going through the same thing I was going through so we agreed to meet again and share ideas and see how we could help each other.
The question looked kind of straight forward but there was a lot more to it. You had to really understand what the question was saying for one to even think of answering it. The additional group discussion we arranged was very helpful to all members of the group because it helped us get a better understanding of the topic and gave me a sense of direction. They made me understand the key words better and we discussed ways on how to approach the question.
I now had a very good idea about the question so I started my research online by using journals and other online write up from the university database and other academic sources. I also made use of a lot of journals and books from the library and even listen to podcast from the CIPD website taking notes and jottings of what I felt was important and relevant to my work.
When I felt I had gathered enough information for the report I started by drawing out a structure to guide me on how the report should be written so I do not lose track of my direction. The handbook was very useful because it gave me a guide on how the report should be structured and helped me understand in detail what was expected of me in so many other aspects of the report.
The topic was quite broad and needed a lot of research and investigation from a wide range of sources which I had to carefully analyse so as not to repeat them or use irrelevant and unwanted information. The information was spread across a wide variety of source such that if one is not very careful you will drift completely from the intended target to a state of total confusion and a complete loss of focus. This we all know means total danger for the student which may result in failure or a poor grade,
It took me weeks to gather the necessary information because I had to get it right and it took me an even longer period to put the information into writing in a well structured manner that was very understandable and will pass across the massage in such a way that even layman will understand it easily and quickly. I was very concerned about the simplicity of my AMP because I had read a lot of reports and journals that were very difficult to comprehend because the language used was too technical for a layman to understand.
Group Dynamics and learning experience
As with any group of people we had our ups and downs which were quite a challenge for me. We had one or two group members that were very difficult get in touch with for discussion and sharing of ideas either because they were working or they just felt they were better of working on their own. In many cases not all members were present for the meetings and in some cases when they show up its more to argue than contribute to the discussion. But we still had a few who were as determined as I was to do a good research and write a report that we were proud of. We met a number of times after the induction week and it was very useful to me. I also kept in touch with the few serious members by mobile phone and e-mail and we kept on exchanging ideas and view as we made progress with the report. Stacey argues that group interaction is a "critical variable in learning and cognitive development" in particular the "socio-emotional variables of group interaction, including motivation, satisfaction and anxiety reduction that are important in effective learning" (Stacey, 1998).
In my own opinion the group dynamics was very useful and helped me a lot in writing my AMP regardless of the challenges we faced as a result of absenteeism, language barrier and lots of argument. It was a very good experience for me because it gave us the opportunity to meet outside academic grounds and socialise over dinner at restaurant which was a really wonderful experience. It gave me the opportunity to relax and unwind in the mist of all the tension and pressure of writing the AMP.
Challenges faced while writing the report
The first major challenge I faced was time management which I will say I am never good with because I know the number of times I missed the school bus for lectures and had to get to school with a cab. But this was totally different because I did not have an alternative I had to me the time frame given or I was going to fail and that was definitely not an option.
Secondly, the information gathering process was hectic and cumbersome. I had to go through a lot of information both online and offline, filter them so I could get those that were relevant and write them in a constructive and meaning manner.
Thirdly, the lack of a supervisor to guide me during the AMP was really a setback for me because after the induction week we were left on our own not sure in which direction to go and not sure if we were doing the right thing.
Lesson for future projects
The AMP writing has given me a lot of experience and confidence because before I started it, it looked like impossibility to me. I felt I did not have the knowhow to undertake such large project but now I know better. I had lots of challenges while writing the AMP and I know so many of them could have been avoided but for my lack of knowledge and inexperience. There are so many things I will do differently if I embark on another project of this nature because of the experience and knowledge I have gathered from this.
One of such lesson is better use of my time through planning. If I had planned properly I would have had plenty of time to do an even better AMP. I was very shaky and confused when I started and it took me quite a while to get out of it and put myself in order.
Secondly, from my experience and evaluation of the AMP process I think I still have a lot to learn when it comes to professionalism. We did not behave like future managers that will be working in the corporate world. From baseless arguments, lack of interest to attend or coming late to being ill prepared for group meets all this do not say well of a potential manager.
Thirdly, I had problems with finding the references for some of my write ups and this was because I was mixing them up as a result of my confusion. This slowed me down because in some cases I had to go back and find the right reference and that was no small trouble.
Fourthly, I understand better the importance of following guidelines and instructions strictly so as not to deviate.
Lastly, I learnt that it is very important to completely understand the essence of the report before starting it otherwise one will end up collecting all kinds of unwanted information.
In concluding this report I will say the AMP has been a very important part of my master programme because it has helped me improve and understand research better, my ability to communicate and understand people has greatly been improve. The Knowledge I gained from working with people from different background and personality will definitely be of great help to me in today's corporate world.
The programme has made me understand the importance of the quality of human resource in any organisation no matter how small or large. For any organisation to develop the right personnel have to be recruited and trained in order to meet the goals and objective of that business. I look forward to using the knowledge and experience I have acquired from the university of Bedfordshire to add value to the society.