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A Critical Reflection of the Key Themes for Self-Development Identified in My Personal Development Plan (PDP)
The purpose of this Reflection Report is to define a personal development plan that will enable me to complete my education and grow my future career. It will include my SWOT review as well as the goals and objectives that I have laid out. A personal growth plan allows a participant to voice his or her happenings on the right track (Beausaert et al. 2011). More so, it gives me a chance to get more say in my life. It is a mechanism involving the development of strategies; the incorporation of the requisite capital and logistics for a prosperous future. As a student undertaking a degree program at the university, I am looking forward to completing my education within the next two years and excel in my academic work and after completion set out to start a successful career journey. My attitude to adequately go through my career path characterize the ability to focus on the set timelines, achieving established goals and the laid out foundations and concepts of achievements and capabilities in this PDP.
My degree program completion will be determined by my ability to concentrate on my academic work, which involves the submission of projects assigned by my instructors on a timely basis. The fact that I have effective time management skills will enhance such achievement (Moon, 2013). My good communication and decision-making skills will enhance my participations and presentations during this course, coupled with the fact that I am always motivated, mainly contributing to boosted grades in my classwork. However, I am always hesitant to seek academic help from my fellow students or tutors whenever I have challenges, especially in my research work. This affects and drags my academic growth. Despite my excellent communication skills, during my presentations and research work, I usually have difficulties in conducting critical reflection and academic research, which might lead to complaints from some of my tutors about a lot of plagiarized material in my classwork. Most of the times when I am pressurized by assignments, heavy workload and perhaps other issues in my life, I find it difficult to compose myself which in turn has a negative impact on my studies. Nevertheless, I will look into necessary steps to take to avoid such limitations through employing adequate levels of concentration and efforts in my course work and especially during research.
A reflection is a tool that I use without thought on a daily basis. It is utilized constantly in decision-making like a new car, finances or new job. During the induction activities, I realized the advantages of good reflection during such activities. It is important, in improving knowledge, understanding and overall learning experience in academia (Hansen et al. 1999, p. 7). Dewey defines reflection as the "active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it" (Dewey 1993, p. 9). On the other hand, Shon interprets reflection as 'the understandings which have been implicit in his action, understandings which he surfaces, criticizes, restructures, and embodies in further action' (Shon 1983, p. 50).
Notably, there exist two types of reflections such as, in action and on action. In action happens during an activity of which I am aware of my feelings, thoughts, and on action; referred by Schon as "knowing in action" (Rolfe et al. 2001). In contrast, reflection on action happens after the incident has taken place, explained by Schon as, 'We reflect on the action, thinking back on what we have done to discover how our knowing-in-action may have contributed to an unexpected outcome' (Schon 1983, p. 26). Schon also states that the latter of the two can be the more demanding and time-consuming type of reflection since it can be quantified (Schon 1983).
Reflection is critical in improving self-development. Professionally through academic research and writing as well as interpersonally through, problem-solving, decision-making, verbal and nonverbal communication. Reflection also prevents complacency and enhances the overall learning experience. Brock and McGill (1998) states that learning is enhanced by critical reflection, which is the "creation of meaning and conceptualization of experience (p. 56).
Deep learning cannot take place without some form of reflection (Bolton 2010; Simon et al. 2013; Northedge 2005). The research by FUE of 1981) also supports the above statement by arguing that the individual's experience needs to be followed by some reflection (FUE 1981, p. 21). This reflection enables the individual to learn from experience and help identify any need for explicit learning for further experience. Even though the above factors are supportive of the importance of reflection, Dewey states that "the skill in experiential learning in which people tend to be most deficient (Dewey 1981, p. 611). On the other hand, White (2003) outline that some individuals firmly believe that reflection is too difficult, or time-consuming (Johns and Freshwater 2005) and can only be used in response to a negative result (White 2003). Such arguments tie with Dewey (1933) point, which shows that reflection, can create a state of doubt, hesitation and mental difficulty.
To be effective, I keep a daily journal on my thoughts, ideas and information acquired. The journal enables me to achieve good critical reflection. Gleaves et al. (2008) contend that reflection journal writing allows students to critically review their thought process and behaviour, and understand their ability to influence personal strategies. Good reflection fosters self-awareness. It helps me focus on utilizing more of my strengths and improving my weaknesses. Some of my strengths include good time management and motivation (Beausaert et al. 2011, p. 527). In contrast, my weaknesses include poor research skills, and hesitation to seek help.
From these and among other considerations, I also recognized that some of my strengths apart from being a good time manager and motivation include but not limited to the ability to work under strict deadlines, attend classes, carry out personal studies as well as submit all the assignments at the right time. The strengths play a fundamental role in undertaking my activities and setting my career path despite my behavior of hesitating to seek necessary help in cases of difficult projects. Besides, some external factors affect my activities in one way or the other. Such factors can be regarded as threats and opportunities with opportunities including availability of various online platforms for conducting a research and the fact that I am an online student (Norman 1986, p. 532; Kumar 2009).
Furthermore, reflection guides me through all problem-solving processes. It enables me to decide what areas I am struggling with, questions before seeking help from tutors or librarian. According to Mezirow (1990), reflection allows us to correct distortions in our beliefs and errors in problem solving. Finally, Gibbs Reflective Cycle (1998) which explains learning from experience through Description, Feelings, Evaluation, Analysis, and Conclusion is my map when reflecting. Description allows me to explain what happened; Feelings allows me to explain what my thoughts are; Evaluation covers the positive and negative aspects of my experience; Analysis allows me to explain my understanding of the situation and finally conclusion usually covers what else could have been done.
Even though some believe that reflection is difficult (White 2003) and time-consuming (Johns and Freshwater 2005), it is still one of the most important tools in learning, as should by Kolb in his experiential learning cycle and also by Gibbs reflective cycle. It is for this reason that the Australian consortium on experiential education devoted its annual one-day conference particularly in 1982 on 'Reflection: A Neglected Area of Learning."
Plagiarism is one of the induction activities I undertook. It made me realize how ill-informed I was about the topic. Plagiarism which comes from the Latin word Plagiarism occurs "when someone else's work is passed off either intentionally or unintentionally, as one's own to gain some benefit" (Carrol 2002, n.p). My awareness of the extent of plagiarism was insufficient, but after this activity, I understood that I could be held accountable for intentionally stealing by copying and pasting someone else work, patch-writing, self-plagiarizing or unintentionally by inaccurate citation or referencing.
Plagiarism is mostly because of poor time management. For example, poor structuring of school, work and family life leading to unnecessary pressure; putting off work until last minute because of laziness; not setting up enough time for school work as well as the need to work longer hours to make ends meet because of financial constraints. It can also be because of a difference in learning styles because of educational background, incorrect citation, poor referencing and an increased availability of electronic text (McKenzie 1998).
"Evidence shows weaker students are the main culprits of plagiarism and they wouldn't spread intentionally or unintentionally information and knowledge" (Bannister &Ashworth, 1998, n.p). It is for this reason that I have to be a strong student to avoid plagiarism. Caruana et al. (2000), point out that plagiarism might only be weakly associated with cheating behavior. Howard (2002) thinks that plagiarism may range from fraud, non-attribution sources through lack of knowledge of conventions to patch- writing, however (Duguid (1996) agrees to support the fact that "plagiarism saves time and effort, improves results and shows considerable initiative on the part of the plagiarist". The researcher also believes that to plagiarized is not to steal another's property but to simplify the spread of information and knowledge. With my excellent time management skills, I have structured my work and personal life in a way that I am less overwhelmed. For example, not leaving my work until the last minute, researching quality information through the library and other websites. Constant note taking enables me to separate my ideas from that of others. Writing drafts proofread and submit my paper within datelines.
Finally, support for work, family, and tutors are abundantly available. It is a vital and a strong motivational tool that makes me be in a position of not becoming a weak student. As proven by Bannister and Ashworth (1998), weak students are the main culprits of plagiarism, and they would not spread knowledge and information unknowingly or knowingly.
Plagiarism can be curbed by correct citations and referencing, Turnitin software to monitor student essays, JISC, stiff penalties from an educational institution, and support from tutors. On the same note, Ashworth and Bannister (1997) suggests cheating might occur when students feel alienated from staff because of lack of contact, Howard (2002) supports this view and argues that we cannot expect authentic writing from our students yet we do know the sufficient and adequate ways of writing authentic essays. Howard (2002) believes that instead of policing plagiarism, institutions should focus more on teaching. Even though there are conflicting ideas on the effects of plagiarism, I think it is fair to give credit where it is due by making sure that I cite and reference my sources in future.
In a nutshell, this reflection report sought to identify my development plan that will enable me to complete my education and engineer my future career life. As outlined, it encompassed my SWOT analysis as well as aims and objectives that I have set out. Notably, a personal development plan enables an individual to vocalize his or her happenings on the right track hence an avenue of effective planning for the future path of project completion and success (Phillips and Rollin 1997, p. 155). Based on this PDP, undertaking a degree program at the university, completing my education within the next two years and excelling in my academic work and setting out to start a successful career journey are among my ultimate goals. Nevertheless, the achievement of such goals will depend on the application and effect of the earlier outlined personal SWOT. That is, making good of my strengths and available opportunities and focusing more on the areas of weakness.
As aforementioned, my PDP is a fundamental component of my career plans and set objectives, which not every student who wants to articulate his /her activities would hesitate to have. It helps in directing individuals towards the attainment of their short-term as well as long-term goals while also aiding students in taking an interest in self-development, becoming better learners, fostering professional and personal growth and becoming more self-reliant. Mistakes or offenses that students commit during their process of learning may be due to the inability of having a well designed PDP. For instance, students who engage in plagiarism may do so due to poor time management among other issues that may be avoided through the preparing of PDP.
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