Sample Coursework Paper on Critical Reflection

Introduction

This essay shall explore the personal and professional learning that I have achieved through the completion of the group task that was assigned to our group at the beginning of the course. The experiences that I have gone through in the process of formulating the learning and development strategy for Severn Trent Water have been challenging, pushing me to reevaluate some of my beliefs. This is considering that Garavan and Carbery (2012: 8) argue that learning occurs through reflection. This reflection shall be based on the Gibbs Framework for Reflection (Gibbs, 1988), which provides six parameters that form a foundation for reflection. Critical reflection is essential for attaining positive learning outcomes because through reflection, the learner has a greater depth of understanding and learning (Wolf, 2010: 590; Lay and McGuire, 2010: 541). Self-reflection helps a learner to look at knowledge beyond its ‘face value’ and to interrogate information and knowledge to develop a deeper appreciation of the meaning and linkages between theories and practice (Moon, 2006). Through critical reflection, a learner knows how to ‘think well’ and is able to effectively assess the self and the social environment and systems, leading to better adjustment (Smith, 2011: 215).

Description of event

Self-reflection is based on the group work that we engaged in as a class, where learners were allocated groups, and required to participate in and eventually present to the class, since participation enhances learning (Lepak & Snell, 1999). My group consisted of myself and three other members, and together, we worked on developing a learning and development strategy for Severn Trent Water, which could be used in the in-service training of employees. Severn Trent Water is considering the introduction of an information and communication technology-based system to help increase its efficiency in handling consumer needs while reducing overheads associated with a large workforce. Our task was to develop a learning and development strategy that could be used by the management to train employees on the new system and reduce any resistance to change from the employees. Two of my group members and I met and agreed that we should divide the task into four discrete areas since reduction of a task into its basic parts eases task completion (Kincheloe, 2010: 28; Baker & Morris, 2002)..

The areas identified were the background information on Severn Trent, including size, structure, products, markets and existing technologies and ICA technology, including definition, rationale, benefits, and impacts of technology on stakeholders. Other areas included identifying LTD strategies used by other organizations to introduce ICA and analyzing the best strategy that can be adopted for Severn Trent Water, and developing a plan for the timely, cost-effective, and holistic way to implement the ICA technology. To ensure that we did our work on time, we agreed to have regular meetings to update each other on the progress made, and brainstorm on the way forward. I was assigned the first part – background information on Severn Trent Water – and immediately began to work in preparation for our subsequent meeting, keeping in touch with the other members and requesting them to email their work so that I could see what they were doing.

Unfortunately, most of the work they emailed was unusable for our project and hence, I requested a meeting with them to iron out the emerging problems and find a way out. However, only one member came to our scheduled meeting. I took it upon myself to prepare the PowerPoint presentation in addition to the hand out that I had already done for the group, owing to the inefficiency of my group members. On the presentation day, we met early and went through the presentation I had prepared for the group so that every member of the group became conversant with the material. Our final preparation was characterized by conflict as group members critiqued and criticized the work I had done for the group, but I prevailed on them to prepare their parts of the presentation. Eventually, we successfully presented our work to the whole class, and I am glad to say that despite the challenges involved in preparing for the presentation, we managed to appear as a united group, one that had prepared adequately for the task assigned to it.

Self-awareness

At the beginning, I was excited by the task and the group work approach because I saw it as a way to learn cooperatively because cooperative learning improves learning outcomes, helping a learner to achieve a greater level of comprehension (Beck, Chizhik & McElroy, 2005). At that time, I felt that working with my peers to solve a problem would not only lead to a better understanding of the course material but also provide an opportunity for social interaction and forging close interpersonal ties. However, working with my group members made me realize that cooperative learning is not always appropriate in all working and learning environments because it can engender the ‘freeload’ effect, where some learners become lazy and depend on the effort of others (Bower and Richards, 2006: 81). Although in the end we managed to present the work as a group, I was disappointed because I believed that we could have done better and produced a quality paper if we had worked together, and every member did the assigned part. Although at the time I was bitterly disappointed about the behavior of some of the group members and their lack of contribution, looking back I am proud that despite the challenges, our group still managed to present a united front at the presentation and produced a commendable piece of work.

Analysis

This group task was useful because it helped me to learn how to prepare a learning and development strategy that can be used in the workplace to manage change in a manner that overcomes resistance. I learned some methods through which learning can be achieved like online training, job rotation, on the job learning, use of trainers, team learning. However, I believe that I need to get acquainted with more learning methods like problem-based learning, experiential learning, which is apt in learning new knowledge, and the Honey and Mumford learning style, which is a cyclic, four-stage learning approach. The group work also taught me the need for strong and clear leadership in a group, which engenders positive change (Caligiuri and Tarique 2012: 618). In any organization or group, leadership is essential in giving the group a sense of direction and purpose, regulating, and directing individual behavior towards the desired goal outcomes (Aggarwa, 2011). Although in our group we examined ICA technology, our focus was on the companies using it and not on the technology itself. Therefore, I would like to learn more about ICA technology and its applications.

Within the context of the Kolb processing and perception continuum, my strength lies in active experimentation, where I prefer to actively experiment because I took it upon myself to perform the group duties when the others failed. I do not take time to do reflective observation and I feel this is an area I need to improve, although my ability to reflect in this task was to some part hampered by the work I had to do on behalf of the group members, who failed to cover their assigned areas.

Evaluation

The group experience was an opportunity for transformational learning because it helped me to interrogate some of the beliefs I had, knowing that reflection is essential for transformative learning (Merriam et al. 2007). The task helped me to reflect on my past events and experiences, and incorporate new information and knowledge into present experiences, a prerequisite for modifying future behaviours or expectations (Rashotte 2002). The group task has been useful in helping me apply transformative learning in my life and now I am able to reflect and self-explore my attitudes and perspectives rationally and objectively, which Billings & Halstead (2012) consider essential for transformative learning. In our work, I was able to do my part effectively and on time, something that my group members were unable to do because of their absence from lectures, where the theoretical knowledge of the material was obtained. I performed below par as the group leader because I was unable to bring all the group members together but also realized that I can able to work under pressure. The decision I made to do the assignment was a bad one in retrospect because I denied the other group members the opportunity to contribute to the task. My eagerness to perform tasks meant that as a group member, I may have been exploited by the others who took a step back and let me do all the work, something that made me feel very bitter at the time.

Conclusion

This task has been invaluable in helping me to re-examine my approach to learning and problem solving as well as have a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses. My strength is that I can work alone and produce work under pressure. I have to work on my leadership skills because when I had the chance to lead the group, I ended up doing most of the work. Secondly, I found that I am too polite and this is detrimental to me because people take advantage of my politeness to burden me with their work. Finally, I have been able to apply new learning approaches, with the transformative learning approach having the greatest impact on me.

Action plan

In the future, I intend to be more assertive in my leadership and in relationships to ensure that people do not exploit my politeness, considering that if I do not change, this may continue to my future workplace. I also intend to be careful when choosing group members to ensure that I choose responsible, hard-working99, reliable people, who are ambitious and serious with their studies. I shall avoid lazy group mates who think that making cosmetic changes to a finished task like changing the grammar in the sentence, font size of the slide, or changing the colour of heading constitutes a fair contribution.

References

Aggarwa, R. 2011. ‘Developing a Global Mindset: Integrating Demographics, Sustainability, Technology, and Globalization.’ Journal of Teaching in International Business, 22, (1) 51-69.

Baker, G. and Morris, K. J. 2002. Descartes’ Dualism. London: Routledge.

Beck, L. L., Chizhik, A. W. and McElroy, A. C. 2005. Cooperative Learning Techniques in CS1: Design and Experimental Evaluation. Proceedings of the 36th SIGCSE technical symposium on Computer science education, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, pp. 470–474.

Bower, M. & Richards, D. 2006. Collaborative Learning: Some Possibilities and Limitations for Students and Teachers. Proceedings of the 23rd annual ascilite conference: Who’s learning? Whose technology? 79-89.

Caligiuri, P. and Tarique, I. 2012. ‘Dynamic Cross-Cultural Competencies and Global Leadership Effectiveness.’ Journal of World Business, 47, (4) 612-622.

Garavan, T. N., Carbery, R. and Rock, A. 2012. ‘Mapping talent Development: Definition, Scope and Architecture.’ European Journal of Training and Development, 36 (1) 5-24.

Gibbs, G. 1988. Learning by Doing: A Guide to Teaching and Learning Methods. Oxford Further Education Unit, Oxford.

Kincheloe, J. L. 2010. ‘Beyond Reductionism: Difference, Criticality, and Multilogicality in the Bricolage and Postformalism.’ Educational psychology reader the art and science of how people learn, 26-48.

Lay, K. and McGuire, L. 2010. ‘Building a Lens for Critical Reflection and Reflexivity in Social Work Education.’ Social Work Education, 29, (5) 539-550.

Lepak, D. P. and Snell, S. A. 1999. ‘The Human Resource Architecture: Toward a Theory of Human Resource Capital Allocation and Development.’ Academy of Management Review, 24, 31-49.

Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S. and Baumgartner, L.M. 2007. Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons.

Moon, J. A. 2006. Learning Journals: A Handbook for Reflective Practice and Professional Development (2nd ed.) New York: Routledge.

Rashotte J. 2002. Incorporating Educational Theory into Critical Care Orientation. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 33, (3), 131-7.

Smith, E. 2011. Teaching Critical Reflection. Teaching in Higher Education, 16, (2) 211-223.

Wolf, K. 2010. Bridging the Distance: The Use of Blogs as Reflective Learning Tools for Placement Students. Higher Education Research & Development, 29, (5) 589-602.