Action Learning: Individual Needs and Group Work

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Introduction

Action learning is a necessary process for improving learning outcomes at individual and group levels. It embodies the spirit of critical reflection, which allows a student to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and developmental needs required to enhance career growth and skill development (Brook and Frost, 2014). The discipline embodies different stages of macro and micro factors affecting the decision-making environment, including steps designed to obtain information about learning processes, accepting and deciphering the opinions of different members of a team, and reflecting on key actions taken in past activities with the hope of coming up with better solutions for addressing future problems.

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In this regard, action learning is an important tool for completing reflective exercises aimed at highlighting gaps in individual and group performance that could be filled with insights obtained from experiences. In this paper, the importance of action learning is highlighted to evaluate my individual and team performance in the primary learning setting. Key sections of this paper will explain how this concept has helped me to realize my learning outcomes and highlight possible areas of improvement requiring support.

Individual Needs Assessment

Supporting action-learning activities is critical reflection, which is a skill that I have learned to love not only in my professional life but also in my personal one. Within individual and group contexts, this concept has emerged as a powerful tool for assessing knowledge and applying new evidence in real world settings (Cunliffe, 2016). From the learning log identified in appendix 3 recognize my key strengths, such as commitment and willingness to learn, and expand them for improved performance. Having participated in individual and group activities, I have also learned about my weaknesses, such as low levels of patience, but I do not expect to be affected by them because I am taking measures to minimize its impact on my decision-making processes. For example, from an individualistic perspective, critical reflection was instrumental in examining limiting beliefs I held about myself and changed them to reflect empowering beliefs and behaviours that would help me to fulfil my career and educational gaols.

In a group setting, critical reflection helped me to understand which team members were unwilling to work others and who was enthusiastic to do so. This information was resourceful in identifying partners that I could work with in specific areas of my class projects. Critical reflection was part of the thought processes that helped to identify individuals who were most responsible for group order or disorder. Relative to this assertion, I found that most group members were orderly and did things as they were told but having one or two partners within the ranks of the group’s membership structure could undermine overall group performance and morale. Daft and Marcic (2017) further highlight the link between poor team performance and management by suggesting that intergroup and company dynamics are similar in the manner they manage individual and group conduct.

The uniqueness of evaluating team development processes is the ability to think critically and coherently about various issues affecting group performance, thereby increasing the odds of coming up with a lasting solution for current challenges affecting cohesion, such as group conflict. In this regard, my experiences in the group setting helped me to understand group dynamics and evaluate the quality of my interaction with other team members.

Applying critical reflection skills in this analysis also helped me to track progress in the accomplishment of my career and personal development goals by allowing me to contextualize my strengths and competencies within the wider body of human behaviours affecting performance. Part of the evaluation process involved assessing the contribution of other scholars in understanding the reflective process and helping CV to inculcate some of the findings of these analyses to improve individual and team performance. For example, key theoretical frameworks relevant in my analysis, included Gibb’s reflective circle, Kobb’s experiential learning process and Schon’s reflection in action plan.

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To assess my skills further within the circles of management competencies, I studied the book, “Guide to Reflective Practice” by Cunliffe (2016). Additionally, I interacted with the works of Hitt, Black and Porter (2013), which explained team dynamics and possible strategies for improving performance in the long-term. These materials helped me to expand my knowledge in different areas of group learning, thereby equipping me with the skills and expertise needed to improve my learning and career outcomes.

Importance of Group Work and Critical Action

An important part of my learning experience was working within groups. This is because the curriculum adopts group work, as an essential component of experiential learning, because it offers a powerful platform for interpersonal development. Relative to this assertion, Fisher, Hunter and Macrosson (1998) say group work is essential in coming up with innovative solutions for current or perennial problems affecting an organization. By tapping into skills and expert advice from group members, one is able to make better and more informed decisions and scale current plans for improved future outcomes. The variety of skills and expertise that is offered in this manner enriches the decision–making process, thereby allowing one to take more risks in meeting their personal and career goals.

The opportunity to work as groups has helped to promote effective learning by making the process more efficient and fun for all parties involved. Particularly, working with other people helped me to see interpersonal issues from multiple perspectives and reduce bias regarding what I considered acceptable, or not. Additionally, working in groups allowed me to complete projects in shorter periods and in greater depth, as opposed to an alternate situation where one works individually. Interacting with other group members in class discussions also created an opportunity to learn from one another. This practice empowered me to appreciate diverse views in learning and development, regardless of one’s circumstances or background because people can always add value to one’s career or development goals.

Critical action learning was also instrumental in helping me to improve my inherent skills as a future manager, which refers to management practices, such as organization, effective communication, and delegation of skills. Critical action learning was also relevant in my individual journey towards self-improvement and the development of discipline as a core value of success. Particularly, critical action learning helped me to understand the gap between what I consider a “skills gap” and the opportunities that exist in the market that could help fill it. Relative to this assertion, observers argue that critical action helps to fine-tune critical thinking skills (Hitt, Black and Porter, 2013). This statement explains why I have been able to make minimal errors in my work and career projects. Relative to this assertion, Brook and Frost (2014) argue that critical action learning is useful in helping people interact with their environments better, thereby enabling them to use resources efficiently.

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The current interpersonal critical action-learning plan identified above has brought new insights into how practitioners and scholars view the issue. They argue that, interacting with people through critical action learning could help one to increase their commitment to achieving their personal goals faster (Mcgill and Beatty, 2001; Hitt, Black and Porter, 2013). At the same time, they claim it allows people to learn from their emotional and skill development experiences in both the individualistic and team learning contexts. These key competencies have been relevant to my analysis because critical action learning has been helpful in identifying gaps in reasoning and finding ways of mitigating them to improve learning outcomes.

Academic Writing Skills and Engagement with Opportunity

Since I joined college, my academic writing skills have been improving due to regular consultations I make with my colleagues and the experiences I have accumulated in completing several class projects. Furthermore, I have been watching several Ted Talks that have discussed the subject and received useful pointers on how to improve my skills. This strategy has been borrowed from my learning log assessment report recommendations highlighted in appendix 3. These talks have given me confidence to express my opinions and conduct research investigations on issues that interest me. For a long time, my academic writing skills were insufficient in meeting the institutionally approved benchmark for acceptable texts (see appendix 4). Consequently, for a long time, I have had trouble merging my hobby, which is fictional writing with real-world case studies that centre on educational topics with special emphasis on my areas of interest and using the same knowledge to complete my academic work.

I found that education institutions expect a high standard of quality in delivering complete projects and there is a bias for a good command of English or critical learning skills in most settings. Having had weak academic writing skills by the time I signed up for my education program, it was imperative of me to take up any opportunity that I found to better than my academic writing skills. Therefore, in my private time, I have been taking remedial lessons to improve my writing quality based on a hobby that I have been doing to developing fictional characters in short stories to improve my command of English. At the same time, I also strive to communicate in English at all times to improve my overall command of the language.

The main difference that I observed between my hobby of writing fictional works and academic writing is that the latter is heavily structured, while the former has some degree of freedom given to the researcher to write his or her own story. Academic writing gives context to new ideas by increasing academic rigor from the kind of materials I studied. Broadly, I underwent several stages in developing my academic writing skills and learnt that the process needs one to read widely over various distinctive areas of assessment. Armed with some of the most advanced technologies in hand, I bought myself the best devices to compare. The progress made so far is visible in my academic skills development plan, which appears in appendix 1. My results shows that my academic reading and findings have been between 5 and 7 points, implying an average score. Critical learning and self-management concepts also attract an average score, meaning that there is room for improvement.

Skills required for Management Career, and Engagement with Developmental Needs, Including Emerging Opportunities

Having a vibrant management career requires a careful understanding of what the concept entails. Planning, organizing, and leading are some of the qualities a person is supposed to have to improve their management skills because a good manager should set objectives, organize, motivate and communicate with workers, as well as measure goals and develop people skills (Boddy, 2017; Moon, 2004). My interpersonal skills allowed me to perform the above-mentioned functions in a team context because I fostered collaboration across networks, levels, students, and colleagues.

I developed these skills and competencies by keeping track of my progress. Appendix 1 provides a basis for understanding the progress made at different intervals of my educational plan. As part of a collective group, I ensured that team members were assigned tasks and responsibilities that fit their personalities and strengths. Evidence of this fact emerges in the works of Römgens, Scoupe and Beausaert (2020) that emphasize collaboration in the higher education setting. Working with others supported my learning and development objectives because doing so helped to foster idea generation and creativity. In other words, we brainstormed on different issues that not only related to work but life as well and I found that the insights I gained from the process were impactful. Therefore, working with others in the collective learning setting helped to expose me to different personalities and cultures that helped me to develop patience as a virtue in business.

Demonstration of Skills required in Master’s Program

The skills required in my master’s program are essential in improving my learning experiences because they offer professional assistance to help me gain competence in one or more team roles. To understand my strengths, I completed the York Strengths Online course, which if examined against all others in the institution, appears superior in terms of examination and skills requirement. Based on the findings highlighted in appendix 4, I realized my best attributes are collaboration and inclusive communication. A surprising strength I discovered in the process of completing the York Strengths form was my digital marketing skills.

Some of the skills that needed development related to my problem solving, communication, and pioneer thinking attributes. I am protective of these aspects of my identity because they are innate and underdeveloped. However, recognizing my strengths also require the acknowledgement of these weakness. Two attributes that emerge in this analysis include self-improvement and resilience in achievement. These skills are also underdeveloped and can be leveraged, through my Master’s degree, which will enable me to nurture the technical skills required to achieve optimum outcomes. I plan to improve them so that they do not hinder future decisions, or create biases that could lead to the development of erroneous conclusions in my learning programs.

Competency in Team Roles

Teams help employees to work productively. My task as a team coordinator has been to evaluate the skills required for my master’s program. Particularly, my duties have been confined to the allocation of team responsibilities because I believe that matching personalities with tasks is an effective way of realizing organizational and people fit. To demonstrate my competency as a coordinator for team activities, I completed the Belbin Team roles questionnaire, as described by Belbin (2010), which helped me to undertake a self-evaluation exercise, as a well as an evaluation of observer assessment. This test helped me to better understand my emerging strengths, learned behaviours, realized strengths, and weaknesses, as outlined in appendix 5.

According to appendix 2, five team members participated in the class exercise and each one was assigned different roles based on the sequencing of task assignment. I played the role of a coordinator and found this position was best suited to my strengths and weaknesses because I have good people-oriented skills, which are instrumental in accommodating individual differences when managing various duties and responsibilities in a facilitative setting. Working in groups, I learned several advantages associated with team activities, including giving up independence and autonomy, and tolerating “free riders” who do not share the vision of the team, but want to be included as part of it. These insights helped me to understand the “human element” of team formation and the difficulties in putting up with extraneous contractual terms that are dysfunctional or that serve short-term gains but are detrimental to the team’s wellbeing in the end. Therefore, the position of a coordinator in a team management setting is important in making sure that different members of the team work together harmoniously because without it, common objectives would be unrealizable.

Conclusion

This paper has summarized key strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities associated with my individualistic and group development objectives in higher education. Emerging gaps in learning and skill development may be filled with improved group synchrony.

Reference List

Belbin, R. M. (2010) Team roles at work. 2nd edn. Oxon: Routledge.

Boddy, D. (2017) Management: an introduction. 7th edn. London: Pearson Education Ltd.

Brook, C. and Frost, P. (2014) ‘I have no English friends: some observations on the practice of action learning with international business students’, Action Learning: Research and Practice, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 1-14.

Cunliffe, A. (2016) ‘On becoming a critically reflexive practitioner’, Journal of Management Learning, vol. 40, no. 6, pp. 747-767

Daft, R. L. and Marcic, D. (2017) Understanding management. London: Cengage Learning.

Fisher, S. G., Hunter, T. A. and Macrosson, W. (1998) ‘The structure of Belbin’s team roles’, The Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, vol. 71, no. 4, pp. 283-288.

Hitt, M., Black, S. and Porter, L. (2013) Groups and teams in management. 3rd edn. London: Pearson New International Edition.

Mcgill, I. and Beatty, L. (2001) Action learning: a guide for professional, management and educational development. 2nd edn. London: Kogan Page.

Moon, J. (2004) Learning and employability. London: Learning and Teaching Support Network.

Römgens, I., Scoupe, R. and Beausaert, S. (2020) ‘Unraveling the concept of employability, bringing together research on employability in higher education and the workplace’, Studies in Higher Education, vol. 45, no.12, pp. 2588-2603.

Appendix

Appendix 1: Academic Skills Development Plan

Academic skill Rating (1-10) Proposed actions, with completion dates
Academic Writing:
  • A strong understanding of different academic writing genres
  • A good knowledge of the features of academic writing (e.g. formality, hedging, nominalisation, etc.)
  • Knowledge of and ability to use the 570 word stems in the academic word list
  • Ability to synthesise information from multiple sources
5 Watch a TED Talk video 5 tips to improve your critical thinking 2021.2.13. Web.

Read the paper the teacher has revised 2021.6.2

Academic Reading:
  • Use of a range of strategies to read efficiently
  • Effectively searching for relevant and appropriate sources
  • Taking effective notes
  • Organising your reading and notes effectively
  • Understanding assignment briefs
7
Critical thinking:
  • Effectively analysing evidence to support a point of view
  • Ability to find inconsistencies in arguments
  • Ability to understand underlying assumptions
  • Strong awareness of own prejudices
  • Understanding of the differences between correlation and cause
6 Watch a TED Talk video 5 tips to improve your critical thinking 2021.2.13. Web.
Managing your learning:
  • Taking responsibility for your own learning
  • Monitoring your own performance
  • Setting realistic targets and plan how these will be met
  • Demonstrating an awareness of learning processes
  • Selecting different methods of learning
  • Use learning in new or different situations/contexts
  • Seeking information from appropriate people
  • Purposefully reflecting on own learning and progress
4 Set small goals and take steps to achieve them

At the end of the term, allocate a reasonable amount of time to each paper and start preparing the paper a month in advance

Self-management:
  • Using, evaluating and adapting a range of academic skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation, argument)
  • Managing your time effectively (meet deadlines, get to appointments/classes on time)
  • Setting realistic objectives, priorities & standards
  • Monitoring, evaluating and adapting own performance
  • Respecting the views of others
  • Taking responsibility for acting in a professional/ethical manner
  • Dealing with criticism constructively
5 Combine it with self-learning by making plans and setting small goals that are easier for you to accomplish
Problem solving:
  • Identifying the key features of the problem
  • Thinking laterally about the problem
  • Identifying options and suggest possible solutions
  • Planning and implementing a course of action
  • Monitoring, evaluating and adapting solutions and outcomes
  • Ability to apply ideas and knowledge to a range of situations
  • Taking responsibility for individual and group decision making
8 I think I have good problem solving skills, I can find and solve the problems in time
Communication:
  • Presenting oral/visual information competently
  • Listening actively and effectively
  • Ability to take part in a discussion, to put your own viewpoint across and to listen and respond to others
  • Offering constructive criticism
  • Speaking fluently and confidently to a variety of audiences
  • Producing a variety of written documents
  • Using written documents to support your verbal communication
  • Evaluating and adapting strategies for communication
8 I am also confident in my communication skills. I am good at communicating with others
Data handling:
  • Using appropriate sources of information (library, retrieval systems, IT, people, etc.)
  • Using appropriate technology and media including IT
  • Handling volumes of information and data effectively
  • Recording and interpreting results / data
  • Interpreting a variety of information forms
  • Using appropriate numerical information
  • Evaluating and adopting strategies for handling data and information
9 I am also skilled in data processing, and I can easily obtain information from various channels

Appendix 2: Belbin Team Role Results

First Second Third
Weiye Shi Coordinator (20) Shaper (18) Team worker (16)
Tiantian Shi Shaper/Team worker
(Both 13)
Coordinator (10) Plant/Resource investigator (Both 7)
Sijia Shen Implementer (13) Completer (9) team worker (6)
Lunjia Song Plant(13) Team worker(11) Implementer(9)
Siwen Sun Plant (12) Implementer (11) Team Worker (9)

Appendix 3: Learning Log

Name &
Date
What skills am I focussing on in the context of the learning outcomes What happened? What have I learned? Action plan Review of actions and
evidence for assessment
(11/03/2021) LO6: Group Skills I completed the Belbin Team Roles test via Excel spreadsheet. Through this test, I have a little doubt about some of the results. I score very high for the role of shaper, second only to coordinator. From my own perspective, I don’t think I’m a shaper. I don’t like to challenge others. I probably wasn’t aware of it, because I’d never tested it before. Personally, I prefer to play the role of coordinator in the team. After several discussions, I found myself interested in the role of coordinator and able to play a certain role. I also want to explore the character of my shaper through more team work. Maybe inside I was inclined to have more challenges but I didn’t realize it. In the future group activities, I will pay more attention to the characteristics of my shaper. At the same time, I will also further improve the coordinator needs to do, to make my team cooperation ability further. More assessments are needed to help me in the future
(12/02/2021) LO1: Critical thinking Through the self assessment Tool, I found that I had some big problems in academic writing, self-development and self-reflection. Although I had previously completed my undergraduate studies in business administration, I found that my academic writing skills and critical reflection were not sufficient for the process of my master’s study. One of the skills the QAA expects masters students to have is “the ability to think critically and creatively” This made me realize again the importance of critical thinking. I discussed with the team members many times and watched many speeches.

In future papers, I will try to think about ideas from different aspects, to be more critical thinking.

Appendix 4: Strengths of York

Strengths of York

Appendix 5: SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis

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