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Managing complexity: A systems approach – introduction
Managing complexity: A systems approach – introduction

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3 Part 1: 1 Thinking about expectations

3.1 What are you hoping to learn?

Anticipations and preconceptions are an important determinant of how people learn, so before you read on, I would like to you to record some of what you are experiencing now as you begin the course.

It's important to get these impressions noted down now, because new ideas and new impressions will quickly overlay the experience. What you are experiencing now will be re-interpreted as new understandings emerge. You are also likely to form some judgements about your expectations. So before any of that can happen, make some notes on your responses to the questions in the activity below. I suggest you make your notes in your Learning Journal. You will need to keep referring back to them as the unit progresses. It will also be helpful later if, as you make notes, you date them and leave space for later thoughts and jottings.

The notes you make for this, and some of the other activities, will be important so you should do them as conscientiously as possible. Their role in developing your skills will become more evident as you work through the unit. Your notes should capture as many elements of your responses as possible.

I anticipate you might spend around 90 minutes on this activity. It may take longer. This may seem like an enormous amount of time, but thinking about the issues carefully is likely to take that long.

Your Learning Journal will be an important resource for your study of this unit.

Activity 1

What is your purpose in doing this unit?

What do you hope to get from the unit? I imagine you might have some expectation that you will enjoy, or benefit from, doing the unit. What benefits do you expect? What was it in what you heard about the unit that suggested you might benefit from it? What was it about the unit or its descriptions that appealed to you? What is it about you that the unit appealed to? Not everyone chooses to study this unit so there must have been something about you that connected with what you heard, or read, about the unit. Make a note of any specific items that appeal to you. Make a note too of any items that worry or concern you.

What is your emotional state as you approach the unit?

Are you excited, bored, eager, puzzled, expectant, tired? What is your present body posture? Does it tell you anything about how you feel? Is it right? Can you improve your physical comfort?

Are you comfortable with your workspace? Are there things you can do to improve it?

You may be aware there is a project as a part of this unit: what anticipations do you have about doing the project?

Again, I imagine you might have some expectation that you will enjoy or benefit from working on material of your own choosing, or perhaps not. How do you feel about the prospect of the project?

What sort of skills and capacities do you think you might need for the project? How many of these do you have already? What skills will you need to pick up? What will you need to look for in the unit to acquire these skills and capacities?

And finally, how do you rate your overall capacity to succeed in this unit?

You first need to decide what, for you, would constitute success. Are there other criteria important to you? What are they? When will success become apparent?

How does your answer compare with your notes on what you hope to get from the unit? Are they congruent or does the answer to this question throw new light on what you hope to get from the unit?

When you make a judgement about how you rate your capacities, what are you basing it on? Are you taking account of external factors such as the time you have or the circumstances in which you study? Are you basing your judgement on your own evaluation of your intellectual capacities? Do energy, enthusiasm and commitment come into the evaluation?

What would it take to improve your prospects of success, measured by whatever criterion is important to you? Can you act to improve your chances of success?

The activity you have just engaged in is the first of several such activities. It is an example of a pattern of activities that constitute reflective practice or reflective learning. This style of learning is based on the notion that the understandings most useful to us, and that most readily become part of us, are learnt by experience. The activities are designed to enable you to discover your own learning by experience.

There will be a lot about reflective practice in this unit but for now I want to introduce you to some basic ideas about it.