The Learning Contract

Learning Contract

This week we were asked to complete a learning contract, a commitment to something new and active learning.  McAllister (1996) considers a learning contract crucial when the learning needs to be deeper, active and self directed. In fact the contract becomes not just a written declaration to the world, but a tangible declaration to yourself.

For my learning contract (see below), i’ve followed and will continue to follow Knowles, Holton and Swanson’s (2012), 8 step guide.

Step 1 : Identify learning needs

Step 2: Specify Smart learning objectives

Step 3: Specify strategies and resources you will use.

Step 4: Evidence of accomplishment

Step 5: Specify validation

Step 6: Review contract with coach

Step 7: Carry out contract

Step 8: Evaluate

I’ve compiled my learning contract in line with these steps and I’ve currently submitted my contract for feedback. It is my intention to carry out the contract and then evaluate, at the end, my learning.

My learning contract focuses on three key areas; ability to reflect in a more soundly, effective structured way. I hope this will improve my quality of writing and enhance the reflective process, benefiting the business. Secondly, I want to become more of a risk taker and change my attitude. Within personal challenges and tasks, I’ve become much more able to jump at challenges and take on the impossible. But within a group, I tend to try and stick to the comfortable and what I know. Moreover, I’m more inclined to try and push forward my idea because it makes sense to me, than consider taking forward someone else’s. Consequently, I’m keen to challenge myself and seek out new ways of doing things and being more free, within a group environment. Thirdly, i’d like to improve my ability to communicate verbally. I often over prepare for meetings and have lots of ideas. Therefore, my important points are lost or I launch into a long ramble. I think my communication in this area needs to be improved and it would also enhance my confidence within networking situations, instead of already thinking i’m going to be incoherent.

McAllister (1996) expresses a wide range of reasons why a learning contract can be effective tool; her article focus’ on the idea contracts promote learning autonomy and self reliance (Knowles 1984)). Whilst these are meritous, as an already active, self-reliant learner within business, i don’t intend to use them in the way. I propose to use my learning contract for two functions. Firstly, to stand still, reflect and identify my current knowledge gaps. Identifying these knowledge gaps will not only lead to self awareness, but will also boost my motivation to learn; “knowledge will be gained because I want it” (McAllister 1996:201)

Secondly, as a student that has often struggled to balance her the necessary rest time alongside work time, I rarely take a second to reflect on achievements. I always reflect on negatives, issues and especially failures, but where i complete something, I move on to the next thing at a rapid speed. This leads to a feeling of constantly running on a treadmill, sometimes a complete lack of awareness of self improvement and forgeting to acknowledge successes and achievements. Acknowledging achievements is something that I hold up as essential within a team, yet I rarely practice what I preach. Consequently, the time limit on the learning contract will (hopefully) provide the ability to acknowledge successes and review the process behind the success.

Within the strategies section, I’ve tried in each case, to go full circle in the Kolb and Fry (1975) learning cycle; ensuring that i’m an activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist in each case. As I’m less inclined to be an activist, I’ve endeavored to make sure the evidence is weighted towards, doing things. My natural instinct is to learning and explore but I don’t necessarily put things into practice. I’ve become much more of an activist as I’ve grown up; business is an activists play ground. But I think an area, where I lack, is that I don’t experiment. I decide on one course of action and proceed, therefore I think this tunnelled approach is removing my confidence to take risks and I’m missing out.

With this in mind, this is my learning contract. After the 12th of December, I will review the progress and I will also montior its implementation along the way.

 

Name  Rachel Horton                    Start Date   31/10/2013                                                          End Date 12/12/13

 

Learning Objectives

Learning Resources and Strategies

Evidence of Accomplishment of   Objectives

Assessment Criteria

Work on up to 3 SMART objectives at   a time

 

 

 

List activities that will   convince yourself and others that you have achieved your objectives

Specify how the evidence of   accomplishment of objectives will be assessed and by whom

 

1. To experiment with 4 different   reflective writing structures by 18th November, in order to   utilize and implement the most effective within my reflective pieces to   improve the structure and coherence.

 

 

 

 

 

      

  • Academic        books and journal articles.
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  • Identify        what is wrong with current structure, taking on board Lucy’s feedback.
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  • Identify        proficient reflective writers and read their pieces.
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  • Experiment        with different structures with writing.
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  • Reflect        and reassess after each writing piece.
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  • Seek        feedback and reflect on it.
      

  • Reflective        knowledge and academic literature evidenced within my writing.
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  • Evidence        and knowledge of several reflective structures.
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  • Ability        to set out what structure I’m using within writing and being able to        justify the choice.
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  • Experimenting        with different structures within my reflective journal.
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  • Seeking        out and responding to feedback on reflective pieces.

 

      

  • Seeking        out feedback from Lucy in regards to my reflective writing; feedback so        far is that quality of writing is high but structure is lacking.        Consequently, improvement of structure and comments around that area.
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  • Ability        to recognize which reflective structure is being used, making my        reflective pieces easier to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. To take on and complete one team   task every other week, that is completely out of my comfort zone and skill   set until January 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

  • Identify        the typical tasks and roles I take on within the team.
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  • Identify        gaps in knowledge, skills and tasks I may shy away from; reflect.
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  • Reflect        on why I often seek solutions that make sense rationally and often        ignore gut instinct.
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  • Consider        times when I and as a team, have taken risks and why it succeed or        failed?
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  • Taking        a more activist approach within certain tasks and instead of thinking,        just do.

 

      

  • Taking        on tasks and roles that I wouldn’t normally do.
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  • Stepping        outside of comfort zone and a feeling of anxiety when approaching tasks.
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  • Feeling        challenged.
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  • Seeking        out expertise within the team and observing others strengths; teaming up        with an expert in a particular area.
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  • Putting        trust in others and their ideas within the team implicitly.

 

      

  • Personal        and team recognition of either successfully completing/learning        something new or improvement visible within a particular area.
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  • Being        able to do something new or tackle something with increased confidence.
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  • Team        and coach will notice an increased self confidence in areas and        increased commitment to the team learning aspect of the course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To prepare a maximum of six key   points I’d like to express to the team within each team meetings, to improve   the conciseness and coherence of my verbal communication by Dec 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

  • Reflect        and consider why verbally my communication can be rambling, fast,        disorganized in comparison to the effectiveness of my written        communication.
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  • Research        and investigate communication strategies; implementing and trying        different ones.
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  • Invest        time in preparing for meetings, making my points more concise instead of        over preparing and developing points.
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  • Public        speak and present ideas to the group more within group meetings.
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  • Ask        for the group to summarise or repeat the points what I’ve said; observe        whether they were picked up.
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  • Use a        more structure approach; set out what I’m saying, explain it, then        re-iterate it at the end briefly.
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  • Ask        for feedback on my communication from the team.
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  • Observe        team members that communicate very well verbally.

 

      

  • Clear,        list of discussion points before each meeting.
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  • Experimenting        with different communication styles.
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  • Increased        confidence in communicating verbally.
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  • Improved        understanding and less frustration within the group.

 

 

      

  • Clearer        understanding and better communication of points, assessed by the team.
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  • Improved        presentation style and organization of verbal communication, assessed by        lecturers.
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  • Clear        implementation of feedback from peers and lecturers, evidenced in        improved delivery.
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  • Increased        self-confidence and reduction of anxiety and frustration, when        communicating verbally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Time is money

Most entrepreneurs thrive in chaos; I know I do, especially as I’ve got older. There is something about the urgency and the pressure that gives an excitement. I thrive in my own self-imposed order and organisation, which I can make sense out of the chaos; my pragmatic view of chaos. I like to break the chaos down into pragmatic steps, to move forward, I rarely feel overwhelmed.

How I make sense of the chaos comes simply down to how as an individual I process information, how I reflect on the information and how I utilise the reflection and put it into practice. When I look at a mess or a disaster, I don’t see a hopeless disaster or a lost cause, I see issues, I see the problems, both of which I’m able to organise methodically and most importantly, I see solutions. The key to my learning is my ability to make sense of things and my strategy behind learning. Consequently, it comes as no surprise to learn, that I’m a deep learner. I like to challenge, research, investigate and explore. I’m really active in the learning process and I take forward knowledge to utilise in the future. I can only do this by making sense of what I’ve learnt and what I’m learning in this process. I can’t just take a fact and accept it on face value, I like to understand where it came from, the factors effecting it, how it might change etc.

However, surface learners, although they don’t learn as deeply as I do, they do complete tasks more quickly and often more efficiently. I can get bogged down in researching and end up reading about things that aren’t directly relevant. I always give myself more time within the drafting and research stage of an assignment, than I do the actual writing stage, as I know I have a “process”, I have to go through. This can mean, I end up with A LOT of information and with difficulty knowing what to cut out and which bits are the most important. Seeking to understand something fully often means lengthy time researching without a purpose.

This is also true when I read and listen to information. I cling to details for understanding. When I started to read academic journals, firstly I’d never actually question a lot of what I was reading and I’d take it on board as fact, secondly, I’d read it from cover to cover and almost want to highlight everything as it seemed equally as important. I’ve become much more disciplined at skim reading, seeking out relevance and utilising surface learning strategies. However, this is still an area I’d like to improve on.  This is exactly, how I view my learning strategy, it is a discipline. A compromise between how I prefer to learn and tools that will enable me to be a more effective learner; a more effective entrepreneur.

This is often where the chaos comes in; I work best under deadlines, pressure and often during a crisis, as this stops my natural instinct to research and read around the subject, seeking complete understanding. Under pressure, I’m forced to skim and seek out the important; I research and learn with a purpose. Without the pressure, I struggle to be disciplined, hence I can end up reading lots of articles unable to decide, enough is enough.

Whilst my deeper learning, enables a deeper understanding and wider knowledge bank in the long term and remains a method, I use day to day. I will endeavour to incorporate more surface learning methods, within assignments and focused research. The way I intend to make this into a reality, is by giving time limits when I approach tasks and research. After all time is money and I’m not making any money reading a textbook cover to cover.