Learning about Yourself and Your Learning Style

by Keeva Gilchrist BA, MSc, Learning and Development Manager for PerpetuityARC Training

I can honestly say that completing my MSc in International Security and Risk Management was one of the most challenging yet rewarding accomplishments of my life, to date. Having entered onto the course to enhance my own knowledge of security and risk management academia and best practice, it is now with the luxury of hindsight that I can state I was somewhat naive in regard to what lay ahead of me. I had no real comprehension of the journey of self-discovery that I was about to embark upon. Of course, I knew that I would be delving into subject matter that would both interest and challenge me and I also realised that producing MSc level assignment work would not be a walk in the park. However, I never truly considered the type of learner I would become; a factor that developed into something of mounting importance as my MSc roadmap unfurled and the challenges presented by the course revealed themselves. Would I revert to my undergraduate days and become the silent type, checking-in for tutorials but never really interacting with the Tutors to any great depth or would I evolve to become more of an engaged type, conversing with the academic teams and my peers, seeking support at every twist and turn?

Being involved in the training arena, I have had the privilege of being able to offer tutor support to learners of PerpetuityARC for many years now, working with an excellent team to help ease student’s worries and answer their questions to the best of my ability. I pride myself on being very in-tune with differing levels of learning requirements and catering for leaners’ needs by adapting my tuition style; I have always advocated for learners to reach out to the training department whenever they require assistance. However, on a personal level, I find asking for help to be a challenge, having always preferred to work things out for myself and on my own terms. I practiced this mantra throughout my undergraduate degree and I firmly believed I could do the same within my MSc journey. Upon reflection and with the MSc post-nominal now to my name, I can honestly say how wrong I was.

In September 2018 I started – excited but unsure as to what might follow. As the first few weeks of the programme got underway, I sailed through the compendiums for module one, making copious notes and visiting the recommended reading lists. However, when the assignments came around, I hit a real roadblock. After several evenings where I held my head in my hands against the backlight of a computer screen where my fourth or fifth attempt at an assignment introduction beamed disappointingly back at me, a ray of light appeared in the form of my first tutorial with Charlie Swanson and Ayesha Juddoo. I believe that it quickly became apparent to my tutors that I required reassurance and support on my journey.

From that point onwards, not only did I receive positive reinforcement and points for consideration and development from the MSc team, I also came to develop a better understanding of my own needs as a learner. I learned that through active engagement with my tutors, I was able to see context in theory and translate this into my assignment writing to meet the requirements of the tasks at hand. It came as a great surprise to me to learn how much support I really did require, how easy and dignifying that support was to access and how much of an impact that that support had on my performance. I would recommend that all those entering into the MSc Security and Risk Management adopt an engaged-learning stance and for those considering the programme, be assured that the support is always just a click or a phone-call away.

Learning for Life and Not Just a Qualification

I graduated in September 2020 and was overwhelmed when I eventually received my MSc certificate in the post. The pride, relief and jubilation when opening that envelop from the University is a mixed emotion that I will never truly be able to describe. Following this, I decided to revisit my final dissertation. This was the first time I had visited my dissertation since submission day and was something that Lead Tutor – Charlie – told me I would one day do and enjoy.  Upon reading, I could not honestly believe that I had managed to study for and write such a large piece of work regarding subject matter I had no real previous experience in prior to embarking on the course, nor could I get my head around how far I had come in terms of research and writing style. After a few moments, I found myself reflecting on my MSc experience; I found I could categorically state that I actually did enjoy every moment; revelling in late-night study sessions and happily swapping out Daphne Du Maurier for security and best practice literature whilst on annual leave.

However, I also remembered the hard moments. There were many evenings and weekends where all I wanted to do was relax with friends or catch-up with family, but looming assignment deadlines forced me to hit the desk instead. Some days I felt drowned in the enormity of the project, like I was barely keeping my head above water manging a full-time job during, completing a dissertation, and moving house not once but twice. Many times I was dangerously close to a burn out. Following direction from my tutors regarding appropriate time management, I realised that I could have a social life as well as time for research, and that downtime is just as important for the mind as study. And once I’d set aside dedicated time for it, I came to learn just how much I enjoyed research in both a traditional and non-traditional sense.

The MSc course materials enabled me to explore into my own personal interests in the field of security – criminology and policing – and I found myself in frequent discussion and debate with colleagues, friends and family concerning articles I had discovered, podcasts I’d tuned into and YouTube channels that I had found whilst analysing a particular topic for an assignment. All of this was greatly encouraged by my tutors and I slowly began to view my MSc journey as learning for life and not just for a qualification. What’s more, I became more skilful when using various computer software programmes. Prior to completing my MSc, I had never been presented with the opportunity to conduct and record interview participants nor transcribe interview dialogue for research purposes, and I seldom used any form of publication art within any document I produced. Within the MSc assignments, I did all of these things and more. It’s safe to say, it’s widened my entire skillset!

Looking back, the MSc programme gave me the freedom to explore and research. To formally contribute to a fast-paced and ever-changing field. To take pride in how I presented my own personal work and to experiment with various research platforms. I found that as my research skills developed, my confidence when engaging with more experienced colleagues and peers grew and grew and I was able to make valuable contributions to challenges within my workplace. All of these opportunities for personal growth contribute in how I approach and manage tasks today. As I glance at my MSc encased in a frame on my wall, I now understand that MSc to me represents more than a qualification – it demonstrates the ability to adapt, to embrace change and to be fearless in seeking the appropriate support.

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