To determine the best practices in learning process, it is necessary to first define what is meant by Experiential Learning. In the words of David Kolb (APCM, 2018), “Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience”. Reflecting on the experiences of this dissertation, it is realised that I am reflecting on a journey, my personal reflection into the world of expanding milk value chain in Punakha district of Bhutan.
In order to gain understanding of the research phenomenon; many scientific articles, literatures and previous research on similar topics have been systematically reviewed and analysed. The chosen theories are related to the dissertation topic and contribute to a thorough analysis and deeper understanding on expansion of milk value chain. This following part is intended in describing the personal thoughts and critical statement that appeared while structuring this dissertation paper.
Generally, it was very enthralling and inspiring experiences throughout this dissertation processes. In particular, I liked learning about the value chain and sustainable business model, as I find this topic an ongoing challenges and opportunities for smallholder dairy producers in the study area. All the information that I reviewed around this topic was of great value and aligned with one of the six implementing programs of livestock sector in Bhutan which is Renewable Natural Resources Value Chain and Enterprise Development Program to realise the goal of “livestock product self-sufficiency for a prosperous and self-reliant society living in harmony with nature” I liked the independent study as it had more tasks to accomplish and required my academic understanding and critical thinking.
The field surveys with the dairy producers was experience gaining. With more than 18 years of experience as livestock development worker in the district, my technical background was quite strong. However, when required to perform the research project independently, I struggled a bit conducting questionnaire survey since it coincided with peak paddy transplantation season and took my time and effort. In few cases, I had to carry out follow-up on dairy farmers who have not responded to increase my response rate. Having said this, with the unwavering support of commissioner, block extension officers and village heads, I could make surveys with all the respondents identified. The respondents were all supportive and honest in answering the questions enquired which was done using pre-tested structured questionnaire.
The interviews with key informants in the form of personal meetings allowed to gain insights into the perspectives of the different actors and supporters in the chain, hence approaching from a different angle. The one-to one interview with the interviewees provided in-depth information concerning the subjects that would have been definitely been difficult to garner information from merely examining the articles and literatures, as it is being shared from direct personal experiences. In order to allow for some degree of participant-led responses and to prevent from interviewing out of topic, I used semi-structured checklist which was revised by research supervisor. Since all interviews had to be transcribed, the challenge was to keep the interview session short and to the point without sacrificing rapport-building conversation. I tired to conduct interviews in an open-ended style, to allow the possibility of pursuing areas of inquiry that were significant to the individual. The overall coordination of interview became little bit challenging. However, despite this challenge, the interviews went smoothly as I went along.
The last part of field work was organising group interview with representatives of dairy farmer groups. I had to make arrangement for working lunch, refreshment and other entitlement as admissible and customary in Bhutanese context. As a preparatory work, power point presentation was also readied along with the subjects that required triangulation and in-depth studies. The results of the findings were presented before opening the floor for discussion. The subjects that required corroboration and in-depth information were discussed and recorded. Overall, the participants were excited and most of those findings were well received and prompted an energetic conversation about the constraints and opportunities going forward for increased milk supply in the MPU. Although, I am not an experienced facilitator in organising focus group discussion, I was able to facilitate this group interview, encourage interaction between group members and kept them on the subject of discussion.
The most demanding and time-consuming requirement after the survey and key informant interviews were data coding, transcribing and data analysis. The challenge was also to choose which data I would use, and to put it together in a way that was both fascinating and aligning with the objective and conceptual framework proposed. It required a combination of analytical skills with innovation and experiences to work through a complex data. However, as I started working with those data’s, I was able to come up with results and discussion parts continually leading to writing of other dissertation sections.
While reflecting the experience of writing a dissertation paper, I came to the realisation that I truly enjoyed the whole cycle of dissertation processes. I am the type of person who organise on time, loves to learn and always seeks to obtain more knowledge in and out of the teaching space. In particular, I am passionate about learning things that relate to my major and my future career as facilitator of the livestock chains.
I spent many hours doing this dissertation and as I reflect upon what I learned, that was most valuable, I think it was truly seeing that determination and dedication paid me off with timely completion of dissertation paper. I also realised that I learned that I can achieve more than what I think. I learned that when I enjoy what I am doing, it is much easier for me to excel in every assignments or projects. This research project in particular helped to maintain a study focus and mind buildings.
Concerning this reflection, I would like to state that Ms. Resie Oude Luttikhuis feedback and constant guidance, upon my research work was sufficient enough to point out clearly which parts of my dissertation where acceptable and which not. Additionally, working under my Supervisor has given me an opportunity to develop a student and mentor relationship.
In conclusion, I feel that this research project has been both a valuable and enjoyable experience. I feel myself well prepared and excited for future academic and professional career. I can now look back and realise that this experience has helped me both as a student and as an employee working in the public sector. Researching and writing skills are not only valued in an academic setting, but also in the organisation where I am currently working and in future as well. I now feel much more confident in planning, managing and conducting research, analysing data, writing reports and getting my findings heard by the targeted audience.