The Learning Log
A student’s Learning Log, in whatever form, is an important feature of the OCA learning experience but can be a tricky thing to get right. Over the past few years I’ve had several conversations with students about the best way to approach it. There isn’t, in truth, one simple answer but it ought to be a place of discovery and display as well as forming part of the conversation between tutor and student. It’s also a place for you to unselfconsciously think out loud and perhaps place your own work next to that of other artists. This article has been written to start a conversation about how you might get the most from writing the log while bearing in mind the work it has to do within the context of a course.
On the whole the log should tell the story of your journey through the course and ought, therefore, include reflections on exercises as well as responses to specific questions asked by the course document. As well as explaining what you did, it’s good to move from description to analysis. Your tutor can probably tell by looking at your drawing that is was made using pencil crayon and gouache and that you had trouble with the perspective, but might want to know why you composed it like that. Try and give an insight into your thought processes and decisions. You’ll probably find that writing down your reasoning will help you too, especially when you look back a few months later. It’s easy to think that you’ll remember everything about all your work, but that isn’t always the case. Speculating on why things worked or failed is good, too. I’m always pleased when a student realises what might not have worked, writes about it, and then, having acquired that knowledge, makes the piece again.
Learning Logs can have a huge impact on how assessors see a portfolio of work, so it’s worth spending some time thinking about how to best approach writing one. As a document that plots your learning experience, it really helps if it’s easy to navigate. Using clear titles will help your tutor or assessors understand what you’re writing about and will also help you when you look back through the document. If an entry relates to a specific exercise or a ‘check and log’ course requirement, use the title in the course document. If you are writing a physical log, printing out small photographs of your work and pasting them into the relevant pages can make the job of locating work easier. Students who use blogs tend to include images and text in conjunction, and this can really help your tutor and assessors. These reproductions can then be annotated meaning that you don’t cover your actual work with notes. In this way the learning log cross-refers to the sketchbook while being separate from it and allowing the sketchbook to be more about visual exploration.
If you have trouble starting I recommend printing out your tutor’s report (or pasting it into the blog) and going through it, writing responses to their main points. This will help you but will also show your tutor that you’re taking notice of them. Exploring any recommendations they make is important, too. Don’t be afraid to take issue with them, but explain why you think differently.
Don’t be afraid, either, to write about things that fire you up that show an engagement in the wider subject. As a tutor, it’s always great to find relevant material not specified by the course. This might be notes about exhibitions, relevant films or television programmes you’ve seen. Accompany these notes with postcards, screenshots, or leaflets. If you’re writing a blog, then include links to sites. While including tickets and brochures might show the tutor you’ve attended an exhibition, it’s important to reflect on the experience.
The Learning Log, in any form, ought to become an important document that vividly evokes your time on the course, while documenting your progress and the changes you undergo while studying. Spend some time on it and it will enrich your experience immensely and contribute to a more useful dialogue with your tutor.