learning logs & learning journals

Learning Logs and Learning Journals

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record in a journal or log what happens to learn for the future avoiding past mistakesIntroduction to Learning Logs and Journals
For many professionals we are being asked to keep a learning log. This often is part of a professional development course, or occasionally by our employers. This page outlines approaches to learning logs and provides some useful tools.

Many of us learn in different ways (see our page on the Honey and Mumford learning cycle), many of us neglect the reflective phase. Maintaining a Learning Log helps us to reflect in a simple yet structured way.

Some call them Training Journals, to reflect that their intension is to record an on-the-job training we undertake. Sometimes a part of due diligence, sometimes to engender a learning culture or attitude.

What is a learning Log?

One definition is – Diaries or journals kept by learners, which are used as tools for problem solving and progression. The emphasis is on reflection and the self-evaluation of learning, not simply on simply recording dates and lessons. By there very nature all journal writing must involve learning at some level

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The purpose of Learning Logs

Is to help sharpen learners’ ability to observe and document their learning, and to use the documentation for self-assessment and planning. To help us remember past mistakes and ensure that any mistakes we make are new ones – not those we have made in the past.

Process:
Learning logs are different from learning journals. Learning Journals usually focus subjectively on personal experience, reactions, and reflections. Learning logs are more documentary records of learners’ work process (what they’re doing); their accomplishments, ideas, or questions. They are a record of learning as it occurs. Trainers, coaches and developers can use logs to determine what a person is learning, where they are struggling, and how they need help.

Determine what will be documented and why. Is the purpose to help individuals observe what they’re learning? Name their questions? Chronicle their achievements? Where do you want to focus their attention?

Model and discuss the kinds of documentation you are looking for. Clarify the criteria for unsatisfactory, satisfactory, and excellent entries, so that the expectations are clear. This will allow you to avoid misunderstanding a learning log full of one-word responses or lengthy entries.

Build regular time for writing in your learning log, so that it becomes a predictable ritual. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Engage learners in discussion and sharing based on what they’ve written in their learning logs, so that their documentation can be used for a real communicative purpose (as well as a reflective one).

Have learners self-assess their work based on their documented notes. What do they think they’ve learned? Where do they need more work?

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Examples of Learning Logs / reflective journals

Name _____________________________
Date _____

Books I read _______ Comments _______

What we did on our project today ________
Comments ________
Next Steps _______

What we learned today _____
Questions I have ______

New words/ jargon/ abbreviations I learned _______
Where I can use these _______

What I worked on_____

See templates below.

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Developing reflective learning skills

Learning logs were found to serve as a valuable means of helping learners connect theory with familiar working practice and also enabled them to reflect on their own personal development over time.

Comparison between the first and final log entries indicate that learners are able to critically re-evaluate many of their initial assumptions about learning experiences.

While the first log entries were characterized by scepticism and relativist attitudes to initial learning, the final entries indicate that many learners have learned the value of reflective style learning logs as a key part of the learning process.

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Are learning logs universally accepted?

One of the problems of learning logs is the assumption that the individual likes reflective learning – as many of us know, this is not reality!

Using a Honey & Mumford LSQ’s one can target individuals with a preference for reflection first – gain some ground and then slowly start integrating it. The fact that most of the professional bodies have dropped attempts for members to keep a diary shows that as a strategy it is not a universal success.

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Learning Log 101 – Formats

There are an many formats of learning logs as there are users of them.

These include:

  • Lists
  • Diaries
  • Notes
  • Mind maps
  • Concept maps
  • Blogs
  • Wikis

As we are all different the most effective method or template for a learning log is the one that works for the individual. Organizations that have ‘forced’ one solution have universally failed.

The best solution is to offer a range of methods to individuals, give them an exercise with each format, work with each and play with each – then leave it to the individual learning to either adopt one of the templates given or develop their own.

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Learning Log Formats and templates

Learning journal template 1

Your name
 
 

 

Session date  
What did I read for this session (apart from the notes)? And what grabbed my attention?  
What were three main things I learned from this session?  
What did I previously think was true, but now know to be incorrect/ wrong?  
What did we not cover that I expected we should?  
What was new or surprising to me?  
What have I changed my mind about, as a result of this session?  
One thing I learned in this session that I may be able to use in future is…  
I am still unsure about…  
Issues that interested me a lot, and that I would like to study in more detail  
Ideas for action, based on this session…  
What I most liked about this session was…  
What I most disliked about this session was…  
Other interesting facts I learned in this session…  

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Learning journal template 2

My Learning Journal
Name:
What are the key concepts I have covered?

 
 

 

A summary of what I have covered:

 
 

 

Things I am still not sure of:

 
 

 

What do I need to do to overcome these uncertainties?

 
 

 

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Learning journal template 3

Date  
Description of event  
Short term implications  
Long term implications  
Feedback from others  
what will I do differently  
Notes  
   

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