What if your learning journal is assessed

Although we are looking at learning journals as a form of exploratory writing, they are sometimes used as an assessed part of a course and will therefore be graded. In this case, you also have to think of the journal as a final product, and the guidelines for it will be more detailed and prescriptive than for a journal written primarily for yourself as a learning tool. Students can find writing a journal for grading causes problems because it is difficult to be genuinely exploratory in your own way while at the same time trying to think about what is expected of you for assessment. At this point the tutor feels to you less like a 'sympathetic' reader and more like a 'judge'. How, for instance, can you say you 'don't understand' when the whole aim of a course is that you should? This is a problem that course designers often acknowledge themselves about learning journals and therefore they may set work for assessment that relates to the learning journal rather than formally assess the whole journal directly. For example, one course asks students to draw on their journals in order to write a reflective essay at the end of the course - something students find very difficult to do if they haven't kept their journals up to date! Another course asks students to submit selected extracts from their journals along with a final evaluation of both the journal and their learning on the course. On yet another course the journal has to be submitted along with other coursework but is not itself actually assessed.

Sometimes, however, the journal is assessed directly. If this is the case then you will need to follow any guidelines you are given and check with the tutor, if you can, about any difficulties you may have with what may be an unfamiliar kind of writing. Try not to get anxious about this. In the end, it is probably best for you to keep to the principle that learning journals are intended for you to explore course material and processes in your own way. Tutors want you to be honest and want to see how you have created your own route through the course - this is why they set a learning journal for assessment in the first place. It is therefore a good idea to write your journal on the assumption that the reader is interested in your own learning and ideas.

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