So as it is now January 2014, my individual learning contract time span has elapsed and now seems like an obvious time to review my progress. The learning contract was an essentially good tool, to take stock and reflect on my skill set and set achievable goals in areas I’d like to progress or further build on. Without the contract and the opportunity to break down, how exactly I was going to go about achieving the points, I don’t think I’d have necessarily tackled the personal development points or been able to evaluate my progress effectively. As such, breaking down the points, enabled me to reflect on general statements like “I’m not good at public speaking”, which in their generalisations are unhelpful. The learning contract enables the understanding of which areas of public speaking are challenging and the best way to approach them.
My first point surrounded improving my reflective writing by researching and testing reflective styles. I started off the semester without a structure to my reflective writing. I did initially adopt a structure, but it led me to set the objective to explore other structures as it did not suit my style of writing. By the 14th November, I had explored four different reflective writing structures and researched the practice. The research element gave me a deeper understanding of the practice of reflective writing and cemented further, its value professionally, personally and within business. However, I created my own structure stating, deconstruction, theorising and construction on the basis of my own personal preference.
After practicing my reflective writing and gaining further feedback, this structure seemed appropriate as it provided a structure that wasn’t too rigid and incorporated a prompt to construct something action related at the end of the reflection, which was an area I was previously lacking. Consequently, I think assess my reflective writing pieces through-out my reflective journal, my reflective writing has progressed and improved, stemming from the stages deconstructed in the learning contract. Whilst I will maintain this loose structure within reflective writing in all areas of my life, stating such a structure is only something I will continue to do within my academic reflective writing.
My second point focused on taking on something new and challenging within team tasks and not just relying on my preferences and known strengths, allowing me to fester in my comfort zone. I have consistently taken on at least one new task outside of my skill set, within group tasks. Within team tasks, I have engaged within pitching and presentations, an area I feel greatly uncomfortable in. I have received feedback each time and been able reflect on my performance and incorporate my feedback into the next time. Moreover, the team were able to identify my experience and knowledge within pitching and utilise this in the team tasks.
I’ve also taken on designing tasks, designing presentations and flyers, areas that I tend to shy away from due to lack of confidence. Within one team task, I took the lead on organising the financial spread sheet model and delegating tasks. Through sharing out team (basic) knowledge and giving it a go, receiving feedback from Tony Blackwood, as a team and personally, I learnt a lot about how to approach the task in the future and what worked and what didn’t. Consequently, these challenges have acted as huge learning curves for me within the team and I’ve learnt far more from them, than sticking to what I already know. I’ve discovered hidden strengths in writing pitches and design that I never knew I had, to the benefit of the team; I also pushed the whole team to engage in a task I would not have normally led on and in which no-one had expertise in with great learning results for everyone and I’ve worked on weakness within my presentation style.
This has led me to a further point, of taking a stance within the team to provide ideas and to motivate but not to take over control of tasks when full team engagement is needed. As such promoting learning for the team becomes the priority and not just completing the task at all costs. Moreover, focusing on tasks that are more action orientated has enabled me to further progress and explore my lack of action of orientation; getting involved with the actual doing instead of researching and planning.
My third point surround verbal communication became more complex than first anticipated. I’d considered it was a problem within my preparation for meetings and not having my thoughts as organised as needed. However, one of my more recent reflections on verbal communication expounded, that the issue surrounded so many areas, including my learning preferences, my deep learning preference, my difficulties with verbal communication, lack of self-confidence within self-presentation and historical introversion within groups and frustration. Consequently, my progress on this point, is suggestive, that just approaching a meeting with six points to cover does not tackle the root cause of the problem but is something I could adopt. However, when I’m actually in the situation or under pressure I revert back to old practices.
My verbal communication reflection detailed my research and progress in the area with different practices I can adopt as well as understanding why I approach verbal communication like this. Consequently, it is more about thinking outside of my head and thinking strategically; the question is not “what do I want to tell them?”, but” what do they need to know?” and “how do I engage with my audience?” As such, whilst I feel I am more self-aware in regards to not only my own verbal communication, what effective verbal communication and presentations look like, but also how my poor verbal communication skills within a team meeting make other people feel and why they don’t effectively impart what I’m trying to say. Consequently, this point is a work in progress and I don’t think it can be ticked off as “done” within my learning contract, as what I thought was a singular learning objective, is actually a significant personal weakness that combines many areas I’m not particularly confident in. Whilst I feel more able to move ahead with this, I think I will be better suited to truly review my progress at the end of the year, after continuous feedback from my team as I incorporate and experiment with different communication strategies. Practice makes perfect.
To conclude, the learning contract is certainly a tool I will take forward and utilise professionally in semester two. It has enabled me to tackle three personal development points, further my self-awareness and brings these three points back into the team, engaging in feedback and utilising my learning within the team sphere.