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Using your learning log

The concept of using a learning log can be a confusing thing to digest when embarking on an OCA course. I have written this blog post to explain the difference between recording your reflections in your learning log and the thoughts you record throughout your practice in a sketchbook.
Your learning log can be an online platform (such as a wordpress) or a physical book (depending on your course) and its purpose is to record and reflect on what you have learned. We encourage you to use the learning log at intervals to stop and really think back on the things you have discovered about your practice and how you responded to tutor feedback. Learning logs should not be approached like a diary or a place to write streams of creative consciousness but instead to be used as a clear and edited learning tool to mark your thoughts over the course.
Where your sketchbook is about the present, the now, your learning log is about looking back. The two go hand in hand, but have very different roles in documenting your creative journey. Your sketchbook is chronological and concerned with your immediate thoughts. These are often emotional, detailed and fragmented as your work unfolds. Your learning log is more reflective and critical. With the added distance of the learning log you can be more holistic and analytical by teasing out or linking aspects of your learning.
The benefits of using a learning log in this way is that it separates those long musings, those quick impulsive notes and the personal sketches from the clear, edited thoughts. What EXACTLY have you learned from carrying out your explorations, from your feedback, from your planning? It allows you to have a benchmark to be able to track your learning at key points and to see your progress in retrospect. Often, when studying a creative subject, we don’t realise things at the time, aspects such as strong ideas, interesting techniques, potential of selecting media combinations etc. and it is only when looking back and tracking our progress that the pennies begin to drop.
Whereas your sketchbook includes more ‘abstract’ writing, it is good to think of your learning log as more of a critical piece of writing.  It is your chance to explain your work and what you have learnt to your assessor. Getting over to them key events in your practice, goals you have reached and ideas that have shaped your practice. Your learning log is also the place to visually show the links between you creative output and your contextual research, illustrating how you have been influenced by wider contexts. This is not to say we want to see visually similar work, but so we can see what you are looking at and how it may have influenced your own work, even in terms of a method of making, colour proportion, technique.
You don’t need to reflect about absolutely everything; it is there to record and log what you have learnt, for you to stop and see your progress. Good points for this are at each assignment/feedback point, at the end of a project, and after a real key turning point for you. Use your sketchbook/notebook to inform your thoughts, along with tutor and peer feedback.
For more information about sketchbooks, have a look at this blog post:
I hope that this has made the idea of using your learning log- please feel free to add comment if any of this helps you!
Featured Image: Examples of active sketchbook and notebook pages with annotations and reflections by ATV student Catherine Horsburgh.

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Posted by author: Faye Hall
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9 thoughts on “Using your learning log

  • This is good. One of the problems for me has been that because my part-time distance learning with the OCA now stretches over many years, what I understood the logbook to be at first had needed to be revised – and revised! And more than half-way through Level 2, I realise I’m still revising how I use it.

      • The problem is in taking a word with an already well established meaning as a shorthand for something like a-learning-log-in-blog-format. There seems to have been a general move in a range of universities to move students to an online visual journal or learning journal type of documentation – and everyone referring to it as a blog, when in fact it’s something quite different from what the rest of the world understands the word to mean.

  • I agree – a very helpful article. Halfway through my second module ( MMT ) and I am realising that my blog needs to be edited drastically – this post has helped me see how to do that. Thanks!

  • This is a very good clarification – I can see that I have previously have had both ‘primary’ and analytical thoughts on the blog. New course for me now – so will try to implement this distinction. The idea of looking back in log and being in the now in sketchbooks is very operational.

  • Thanks for your article, but I’m quite a new student and am wondering if it means we positively shouldn’t use our learning logs to record our day to day experience of working through the course (eg where it says ‘should not be approached like a diary’ – although probably depends on how you define ‘diary’)? I understand (in theory at least!) the need to reflect in a more considered way ‘at intervals’ about what I’m learning over the longer term. But I also think that maybe my initial unedited responses to the exercises are going to be useful when it comes to reflecting on my progress, and would prefer to keep both my ‘immediate’ and long-term reflections in the same place, at least to begin with.
    I do find that doing my learning log as a blog I tend to be thinking about my fellow students reading it, at the back of my mind. If I thought I was just writing for myself and my tutor I’d probably do it a bit differently. Perhaps I should think of my blog as containing my learning log, not actually being my learning log. I guess ease of navigation for my tutor is the key.

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