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Author: Maryellen Weimer and Gary R. Hafer

Learning logs are records of student learning or insights that grow out of personal reflection, or both
Afterthoughts - student reflection assignments
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We’ve chosen to finish up our series on assignments with information on learning logs. Like the innovative and interesting assignments we plan to continue highlighting, learning logs are versatile and can be used to accomplish a range of learning out comes.

Begin with what they’re not: diaries. Rather, they’re records of student learning, be that further explorations of the content, or insights that grow out of personal reflection, or both. They can be used to get students writing more and writing in courses where they typically don’t write. A flexible assignment, learning logs can be shaped in different ways and managed so that the reading and grading don’t require large time investments. What follows are the goals this assignment can accomplish, some common types of logs illustrated with examples, and a planning guide if you might be persuaded they’re an assignment worth trying or when your log assignment might be ready for a refresh.  

The goals learning logs can accomplish

Types of logs—There are many possibilities but here’s a run-down of some of the more common types and some specific examples.

Content log—At regular intervals students write entries that respond to material presented in class, covered in the text, or provided by the teacher (i.e. prompts, scenarios, short case studies). These logs promote content learning by having students write about course material.

Personal reflection logs—Students use course content or their experiences in the course to promote personal insights or develop awareness. These can be logs where student track their efforts to learn the content or where they explore how the content relates to them personally.

Query collection—This journal collects questions: those raised by the content covered in class, by the readings, from discussions, or that come to the student as he or she studies course material. They may be questions the student can’t answer, new questions raised by the content, or questions that are of interest to the student. Students can be asked to write about the questions they’ve generated: what prompted them, where the answer might be found, ideas about the answer, or the answer.

Experience journal—Often used to record internship experiences in service-learning courses or travel courses. Students describe experiences by writing about what happened and their response to it. Subsequently they may review entries and analyze them with content provided in the course or they may reflect more deeply on their involvement, what they did, could have done, maybe should have done.

Course log—It’s one journal, appearing online with posts from students in the course. They may respond to prompts provided by the teacher, and they may be assigned to post prompts or respond to the comments of other students. Teachers may post comments as well.

Log assignment planning questions: Here’s a set of questions that need to be addressed if you’re considering a log assignment, making plans to use one, or reviewing one currently in use. They illustrate the many different design options for this assignment.