Learning workload

So far, I’m not finding the workload too bad. Apart from the online activities which I can’t do yet as I have to wait for everyone else to get up to speed, I’ve now completed week three. According to the course plan, I should be finishing off week one around now, so good progress so far!

I’m lucky in the sense that I do have a couple of hours spare every evening, and a few extra hours spare in the mornings at weekends. It’s also proving to be a good thing that I commute a lot, as I can listen to the course materials in the car while driving to work.

I’ve been forgetting to keep the learning diary, but hopefully I’m going to get back on track with this.

Shame I don’t seem to have much more time for the Critical Thinking book – I was really enjoying that.

B628 Week Two

The second week of my course already seems like a distant memory as I have now finished week three, and already skim read week four. However, it’s now time to back track a bit and reflect on what I learnt during the second week.

Week two was all about communication, and seeing as I’ve never really considered myself as the world’s best communicator, I always knew I was going to learn a lot of new things. Some of the most useful things I’ve learnt are the concepts of open and closed communication climates, barriers to communication, and questioning techniques.

Let’s look at the week in detail:

  • What you can do to improve the communication climate
  • The information theory model of communication
  • The constructivist model of communication
  • Understanding communication (locution, illocution and perlocution)
  • Barriers to communication (physical, perceptual, emotional, cultural, language, gender/status, interpersonal)
  • Paralanguage and non-verbal communication
  • Listening skills (support, responding, retention)
  • Questioning skills (closed/open, direct, probing, leading, loaded, hypothetical, mirror/reflective)
  • Understanding meeting types and styles (informal/formal, adversarial/consensual)
  • How to make meetings more effective
  • Improving chairing skills

The course learning outcomes from the module activities guide suggest I should now be able to understand the importance of effective communication as well as the process, identify barriers to communication and help to lower them where I have control or influence, communication more effectively, improve communication in situations where communication is poor where I have control or influence.

I’d say that pretty much covers what I’ve learnt!

B628 Week One

During my first week of OU study for B628 Managing 1: Organisations and people, I’ve learnt about what is meant by management and managerial effectiveness, how to identify the roles I fulfil as a manager, how to identify activities that contribute to managerial effectiveness, and how to identify a cause of stress in my managerial life. I’ve also learnt to understand time pressures, the need for time management, and how to plan an action to reduce stress.

The above is paraphrased from the Learning outcomes section for week one in the B628 Module Activities guide, and pretty much reflects what I’ve learnt, but I can obviously go into much more detail.

This week I’ve covered:

  • Henri Fayol’s definition of management.
  • Peter Drucker’s eight practises for management by objectives.
  • Four factors influencing managerial effectiveness.
  • John P. Kotter’s analysis of what effective general managers really do.
  • Henry Mintzberg’s roles of a manager.
  • Rosemary Stewart’s demands, constraints, and choices.
  • A set of skills and competencies defined by the UK’s Management Standards Centre.
  • Robert L. Katz’s technical, human, and conceptual skills and ‘The Helicopter Mind’.
  • Eugene Jennings’ characteristics of an effective manager.
  • The transition into management and the player-manager syndrome.
  • The seven stages of transition according to Adams et al.
  • How to distinguish between pressure and stress.
  • Five main causes of stress identified by the CIPD in the UK.
  • The most common causes of stress.
  • Symptoms of stress and possible actions to reduce stress.
  • Strategies for time management, including work shedding, time saving, and time planning.

(Source: B628, Managing and managing people).

 

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.