Just starting out

I received my OU books at the start of April, just before going on holiday. Since then, I’ve learnt a lot, particularly about effective study techniques and critical thinking.

The effective study techniques I picked up from the Manager’s Good Study Guide, provided as part of my OU study materials. This really opened my eyes to how I currently learn and have learnt in the past, how I can go on to learn better, and how to manage my learning. One of the suggested activities to carry out was this one – keeping a learning diary.

I also learnt how to read effectively – such as skim reading, or reading actively with a purpose in mind. I learnt how to make effective notes, including highlighting, annotating, and mind-mapping.

Logical reasoning and critical thinking were two other topics covered by the Manager’s Good Study Guide which caught my attention. I learnt about formal logic: deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning, and saw some examples of reasoning in action. I then read about critical thinking, and how to use it to critique and question assumptions and premises, tradition, and authority, as well as how to use it to construct sound arguments.

Finally, I learnt about communication, and in particular two different models for communication – the information theory model developed by Shannon and Weaver (1949), and the constructivist model, which is much more empathic. I learnt the importance of active listening, and assertive communication – both of which I already use at work, but it’s nice to read about them from an academic viewpoint.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking interested me so much that I bought a book from the Cambridge University Bookshop, Critical Thinking An Introduction (Alec Fisher, Cambridge University Press). I began testing out some of my new learning, reading, and note-taking skills as I worked my way through this book.

The book is hard going, with many worked examples to carry out for oneself, but to say it has changed the way I think is something of an understatement! I’ve learnt so much more about what critical thinking is, and how to improve it; how to identify reasons and conclusions, and the language of reasoning – including the different patterns of reasoning, such as side-by-side reasoning, chains of reasoning, or joint reasoning. I’ve also learnt about assumptions and context, and discovered the importance of these myself when I made a Facebook remark that was judged to be snobbish by some of my friends.

I’m still working my way through the book and am now using thinking maps while learning how to clarify and interpret expressions and ideas, judge the acceptability of reasons (including their credibility), and skillfully judge the credibility of sources.

Now I’m also doing the actual coursework for B628 Managing 1: Organisations and people, there isn’t as much time to do the exercises from Critical Thinking An Introduction, but I’m hoping to be able to spend a little time on them over the Easter holidays.

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