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Foreign Student’s Personal Development Plan Report

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Introduction

Every student needs to take charge of his or her professional growth and development. Many times, students fall into the trap of assuming that the academic institution they attend is responsible for their professional development. A personal development plan (PDP) is useful in the process of taking charge of an individual’s professional development. This reflection paper looks at various facets of professional development. This paper aims to develop a well-reasoned set of professional and social goals based on insight from literature, and insights developed from participating in academic exercises.

Acculturation

New students suffer from culture shock. Foreign students suffer from culture shock more severely than local ones (UKCISA 2012). Culture shock arises from two situations. First, when someone goes to settle into a new culture, he deals with the lost people, places, and their entire cultural construct (Arthur 2004). The relationships people form over time are an important part of their cultural experience. The second aspect of culture shock is the need to adapt to a new place, with its people, language, and social norms (Griffin 1997). The extent of culture shock depends on how well someone is ready and capable to cope with the new cultural situation.

Two models used to describe culture shock include the U-model and the W-model. The U-model looks at culture shock as a three-stage process. One arm of the U represents contact with the host culture (Arthur 2004). The trough represents a conflict with the host culture, while the other arm represents adaptation with the host culture (Arthur 2004). During contact with the host culture, a new person reacts with short-lived excitement caused by the fascination that new ideals and norms bring. This stage gives way to a loss of morale and feelings of being lost in a world away from everything familiar. An individual becomes depressed and tries to find ways of clinging to the familiar things from their home culture. This stage gives way to adaptation as the need to be productive becomes apparent. The W-model is more elaborate and looks at culture shock as a series of difficulties. It models the changes in the morale of the person as he tries to adapt to the new culture (UKCISA 2012). It covers periods of relapses and periods of stability. The W-model adopted by the UK council for international Student affairs includes the cultural changes a student experiences as he goes to a new culture and as he returns home.

 The W-model featuring reintegration from a host culture.
Figure 1: The W-model featuring reintegration from a host culture (UKCISA 2012).

The UKCISA model, prepared for students assumes that all students go back to their home cultures after their education. It also assumes that the cultural shift experienced during the time spent in the UK leads to some permanent changes in the person. The final level of equilibrium is not the same as the original level.

Personal experience seems to suggest that the first part of the model is accurate. I am going through the honeymoon phase. However, rather than a steep decline into depression, and experiencing acculturation related stress, I am going through a series of bumps. While I miss my native culture, I have identified people and activities that are helping me to cope.

The induction program introduced the stresses I may go through as a new student. This gave me crucial insights into what I can do to cope. The program can improve its value if it helps in the identification of people, outside the academic community such as the Diaspora community in the country to allow me to have authentic cultural expression.

Reports and Academic Journal Comparisons

The report on “what works for students” developed after researching the aspects of student life that make the University of Wolverhampton ideal for learning brought up several issues relevant to the objectives of this review. The study aimed at identifying aspects of student experiences that contribute to learning and retention at the university. The research question was, “what were the positive factors that made a difference for the students during their journey and hence encouraged them to remain and persist in their studies at University” (ILO 2012, p. 1). The report presented six major themes from the survey showing the factors contributing to student retention in the institution. The six issues were “interactive pedagogies, responsive lecturers, sense of belonging, social learning environment, and technology in learning and cultural diversity” (ILO 2012, p. 5).

Interactive pedagogies refer to teaching methods that maximize contact and use diverse approaches such as films, PowerPoint presentations, seminars, and group activities to enhance learning (Horton 2012). My experience with interactive pedagogy is that it led to greater enjoyment of the lessons and greater appreciation of concepts taught in class. I strongly agree that the use of interactive pedagogy makes my experience in the institution more meaningful.

Responsive lecturers, according to the report, refer to aspects such as availability, support, and approachability of the faculty members. The report further states that lecturers contribute a large portion of the satisfaction students derive from the institution (ILO 2012). The importance of this aspect comes from the fact that lecturers are the primary service providers in a university. The absolute measure of the success of a student is his or her academic performance (Johnson & Johnson 2009). Therefore, supportive lecturers contribute to this objective.

Having a sense of belonging is also very important for students in a learning institution. When a student joins a university, they need to feel welcome to the new place. More importantly, they need to identify their place in the new environment. This situation becomes even more important if the student comes from a different culture. My experience is that sufficient measures went into play to ensure that I identified my place in the university community. It is ongoing.

The fourth finding was that a social learning environment contributes a lot towards making student enjoy their experience on campus. A social learning environment is one where students have the opportunity to interact among themselves in and out of class (Laster 2001). Also, it includes an environment that supports the social lives of students to enhance learning.

The use of technology in learning is also an important aspect of student life. In particular, students enjoy the use of online learning frameworks for use in their work (Horton 2012). I find it very helpful that I can access course materials, lecture notes, and university announcements online. Besides, the use of computer-based learning in the classrooms gives learning materials a better appearance, making learning more pleasant.

The final aspect presented in the report is cultural diversity. Cultural diversity refers to the rich interaction students have in the university between them and students from other parts of the world. Students learn a lot from each other because of the unique cultural mix of each cohort. I am making friends from all over the world. This is shaping my attitudes towards other people and making me a better global citizen.

Residential Program

I did not participate in the residential program because of the time constraints associated with residential programs. The strict diary for residential programs made it very difficult for me to find time to participate. Rather I found it more convenient to work based on my schedule because of the opportunity to maximize my most productive time to carry out my studies. Flexibility in the timetabling will make it easier for me to participate in residential programs.

SWOT Analysis

My SWOT analysis of the PDP is as follows.

Strengths Weakness
  • Clear academic objectives including interest in project management
  • Clear social objectives
  • Clear interest in leadership
  • Very good peer rapport
  • Slow in establishing relationships with potential mentors
Opportunities Threats
  • Presence of mentors and mentorship programs
  • Availability of focused student clubs
  • Potential to develop strong cross-cultural relationships
  • Intimidation by foreign cultural experiences
  • Language barrier blocking participation in some aspects of social and academic expressions

Personal Planning and Action Plan

This personal development plan (PDP) has three sets of goals. The first set is PDP opportunities open to me through the curriculum. The second one is the PDP goals open to me through program staff and support services, while the third set is the goals open to me from other general areas.

Opportunities open through the curriculum
PDP included as part of the degree, taught within the subject Understanding essential concepts of business administration and how I can use them in the workplace
Optional modules I can choose to further my personal development Financial management modules
Optional modules I can take to broaden my interests Leadership in business modules
Career planning modules Strategic career planning
An additional language
Work experience as part of the curriculum Pursue any opportunities I can find in the work-study program. Seek an official attachment for a period during the long breaks
An option to work experience that gains academic credit Pursue specific (Project-based) work opportunity (Kerzner 2009)
People skills developed through the academic curriculum Participation in group work, especially by pursuing opportunities to lead workgroups
Self- management skills are developed through the academic curriculum Personal planning, work-life-balance (Coon & Mitterer 2008)

Table 1: Opportunities open through the curriculum.

PDP opportunities provided by program staff and support services
PDP opportunity Available through the university To pursue further
Personal tutor to offer support for PDP Yes Yes
Academic guidance: specialist advisers who advise about the choice of programs, modules, and options Yes Yes
Careers advisory service Yes Yes
Job-shop
Learning development or support unit offering support for academic or language skills Yes No
Organized activities doing community or voluntary work Yes Yes
A skills program offered by the student union Yes No
A skills program offered by the university Yes Yes
Chance to meet with employers Yes Yes
Employers’-run skills session Yes Yes

Table 2: PDP opportunities provided by program staff and support services.

Action plan
Target Milestones (Steps to be taken) By date By whom Evidence that milestone is completed Done
()
To identify a financial management module to pursue Identify objectives for taking the module Set of objectives developed
Choose appropriate module Specific module identified
Register for the module Fees paid
Take the exam Results out
Take a module on leadership in business Identify objectives for taking the module Set of objectives developed
Choose appropriate module Specific module identified
Register for the module Fees paid
Take the exam Results out
Find a project-related job that can help me earn credits (PM4DEV 2008) Select areas of project management in business management to pursue Areas of interest identified and prioritized
Prepare personal profile and CV CV Prepared
Send CV to potential organizations Twenty-five CV’s sent out per week
Network
Develop a plan to take advantage of tutoring services Identify mentorship needs Needs statement completed
Locate best-suited person/program One program from the array available considered
Register in the program Registration process completed
Participate in the program Continuous participation
Participate in a community outreach event Determine PDP goals for participating in community outreach Goals listed and prioritized
Explore student clubs with robust outreach programs Collection of all student club profiles, and activity reports
Determine which program meets my needs best Comparison of student clubs with personal goals to determine fit
Make a commitment Registration process completed.

Table 3: Action plan.

Conclusions and Reflection

The process of developing personal goals is important because of allows for reflection of the current state of affairs in line with future aspirations (Johns 2009). Based on the reviews carried out in the sections above, I have developed five main PDP goals. These goals include academic goals, professional development goals, and social goals. These goals will help me in participating effectively as a student in a new culture. At the same time, I will grow as a professional, ready to reengage with the industry based on the experiences garnered in my time as a student.

The process has made it easy for me to identify these goals in a systematic and balanced way. I believe that at the end of my student experience, I will have gone through a very enriching experience in the institution. A number of minor goals also showed up in the process of developing the main areas of focus. These goals such as seeking opportunities to lead discussion groups will be easier to meet since group work is an essential part of the learning process in the institution. It will take a commitment to meet all these goals. Setting them is only the first step in a long journey.

Reference List

Arthur, N 2004, Counseling International Students: Clients from Around the World, Springer, New York.

Cantore, S & Passmore, J 2012, Top Business Psychology Models: 50 Transforming Ideas for Leaders, Consultants and Coaches, Kogan Page Publishers, New Yok, NY.

Coon, D & Mitterer, JO 2008, Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior, Cengage Learning, New York.

Forsyth, DR 2009, Group Dynamics, Cengage Learning, New York.

Griffin, E 1997, A First Look at Communication Theory, 8th edn, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc, New York, NY.

Holmes, D 2005, Communication Theory: Media, Technology, and Society, SAGE, London, UK.

Horton, W 2012, E-Learning by design (2nd ed.), Wiley, San Francisco, CA.

ILO 2012, ‘What Works for Students?’, Research Report, Institute for Learning Enhancement, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton.

Johns, C 2009, Becoming a Reflective Practioner, Blackwell-Wiley, Oxford.

Johnson, WD & Johnson, TR 2009, ‘An Educational Psychology Success Story: Social Interdependence Theory and Cooperative Learning’, Educational Researcher, vol 38, no. 5, pp. 365-379.

Kaplan, RS & Norton, DP 1996, The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action, Havard Business Press, Boston OH.

Kerzner, H 2009, Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling, 10th edn, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

Laster, K 2001, The Law as Culture, Federation Press, Perth.

PM4DEV 2008, Fundamentals of Project Management, Lulu.com, Raleigh, NC.

UKCISA 2012, International Students and Culture Shock, UKCISA, London.

Appendix

Teamwork and Presentation Skills

Teamwork refers to the process in which several individuals come together to accomplish a common goal (Forsyth 2009). One of the two important theories in teamwork includes the five-stage group dynamics model developed by Tuckman (Holmes 2005). Tuckman proposed that every team goes through four stages namely, forming, storming, norming, and performing (Forsyth 2009). The forming stage of a group covers all activities that initiate the life of a team. Group formation is not always deliberate. However, effective participation in a group stems from a deliberate effort on the part of team members. During the storming stage, group members go through an identity crisis where they try to identify their roles in the groups (Kaplan & Norton 1996).

During the forming stage, the group members usually take on specific functional roles. However, during the storming stage, other factors such as personality differences come into play. After all the members fully understand their roles and their responsibilities, the group progresses to the norming stage (Forsyth 2009). It is an equilibrium-of-sorts characterized by clear professional and personal boundaries. It gives way to the performing stage. The performing stage is the actual execution of the group’s mandate. The time it takes a group to reach the performing stage depends on the mandate of a given group and the duration the team members will spend together. Short-lived group activities tend to promote faster cycles.

Another theory that deals with group dynamics is the Meredith Belbin model model that identifies roles that team members need to play for a team to have coherence. The model presents roles, and not personality typologies (Cantore & Passmore 2012). In this sense, people choose which roles to play according to their personality types. The first role is that of an “implementer” (Cantore & Passmore 2012, p. 110). An implementer turns ideas into reality using disciplined approaches. Implementers tend to be rigid. The second role needed in a team is one of a “finisher”, who focuses on the completion of the task (Cantore & Passmore 2012, p. 110). Finishers can be anxious and usually find it difficult to delegate because of the fear that someone else cannot do what they should. Third team role according to Belbin is the coordinator’s role. Coordinators come across as natural leaders because they support and encourage other team members (Cantore & Passmore 2012). However, coordinators can also be manipulative. Fourth, a team needs a “team worker”, who is someone good at negotiating within and outside the team (Cantore & Passmore 2012, p. 110). Team workers help the work process along but can show indecisiveness.

The other roles needed for a balanced team includes a “resource instigator”, “a plant”, “an evaluator”, and “a specialist” (Cantore & Passmore 2012, p. 110). A resource instigator displays a high level of innovation and initiative when it comes to accessing resources for use by the team. However, this calls for a highly optimistic disposition, which can lead to unrealistic targets arising from planning based on resources not in the team’s control. A plant is someone keen to explore new ideas and to develop them. Such a role requires a broody person who can work on an idea until it is mature for application. However, people who fill this role well tend to be poor communicators. Finally, the team needs a specialist who can focus on specific technical aspects of the task. Specialists tend to lose the big picture quickly. A team member can play any number of roles specified by the model.

The main conclusions from this review are that every team will pass through a number of stages before it becomes effective. As this happens, the team also needs to take into account the roles that the team members play. If some of the roles in the Meredith Bilbin model remain open, then the team will lack vital components of success.

Database Assessment Exercise

The purpose of the database assessment exercise was to review a concept in business administration in order to measure how a fad develops. A fad in this case is an observable trend that is perceivable over a long period. A fad usually arises from something already in existence that takes on a new wave of popularity. In academic circles, fads emerge from the application of certain concepts. These concepts seem to take on a new meaning and increased use by influential scholars, leading to the mainstreaming of their use.

The concept chosen for use in database analysis is strategic management. Strategic management arose from the concept of strategic planning from the military. Military strategists used strategic planning as the overall means of achieving campaign objectives. After the world wars, business thinkers applied this concept to business administration hence the emergence of strategic thinking and strategic planning in business. Later, business thinkers started using the term strategic management to refer to all the efforts an organization makes to take advantage of existing opportunities to deliver certain advantages to the organization in the future.

The method used to assess the use of the term strategic management was simple. It involved setting up a number of constraints using the advanced search settings in order to find the number of occurrences of the term. The first constraint used in the analysis was that the term strategic management must have been part of the title of the publication. This means that any publication that had the term in any other section of the publication did not feature in the results. Secondly, the interval constraint used in the analysis was ten-year periods, starting in 1910. Thirdly, there was no allowance for terms similar to any of the two words such as “strategic administration” or “strategic operations”. The search was strict in the sense that the only terms accepted were “strategic management”. Data analysis using MS Excel came after the data collection exercise. This analysis aided in the production of the graph showing the emergence of the strategic management fad.

The table below shows results from the procedure First, the use of the term strategic management within the period under review first appeared in a publication under the title, “Principles of Strategic Management” by F.W. Taylor in 1911. This was the only publication in that decade with the exact term “strategic management” in its title. The next appearance of the term was in 1960 for a publication titled, “Advanced Strategic Management: Introduction and a Theoretical Frame” by S. Hartmann. There were no publications with the exact term in the intervening period. In the next decade, the number of publications with the exact term rose to seven. The number skyrocketed to 148 in the seventies. Since then, the number of publications with the term strategic planning has hit five thousand and ten in the decade starting in the year 2000. The rise of strategic management as a fad seems to have a strong correlation with the emergence of personal computers in the post second world war period. It is possible to infer that the increasing capacity and need to manage information came with higher demands for corporate planning.

Number of publications with the term “Strategic Management” in the title since 1910.
Table 1: Number of publications with the term “Strategic Management” in the title since 1910.
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