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Reflective writing: Portfolios and learning journals, logs and diaries

“if we take the stance that neutrality is not possible, professional practitioners need to have a clear understanding of their own values and the impact these have on their work.”

Bassot, The reflective journal

Portfolios, learning journals, logs, and diaries

A learning journal, log or diary is often an important component of a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of evidence or proof of the student’s learning and abilities.

‘A common ingredient – sometimes a compulsory one – of a portfolio is a learning journal. If you are going to use this, remember to start it soon enough – as soon as you know that a portfolio will be demanded of you…If you keep a “Learning Log”, “Learning Journal” or “Learning Diary”, you will in fact be reflecting on or thinking about what you are learning. You will be learning by internalising your experiences – by making them more fully your own…The portfolio at its best can help to bring together your whole learning process. It adds to – even while it helps you to reflect on – your personal growth, learning and development.’

Wilson (2007) in Study Guide: Portfolios, pages 1-2

Your learning journal should not be just a description of the topics and activities covered during a class session or placement; you should include some brief background but it should be predominantly about your thoughts, feelings and experiences. This should form the core of your journal. Try to get into the habit of reflecting on your learning in all modules of your course, as well as on the learning that takes place in your life in general. You can write anything that helps you to reflect on your learning. Here are some examples of the sorts of things you may wish to write about:

  • your feelings about the course and your progress
  • your feelings about the lecturers and the other students
  • changes in your motivation or attitude toward your learning
  • your ideas about how you learn most effectively - focus on your learning preferences
  • the things that challenge you; that you find difficult (and why)
  • the things you find easy (and why)
  • your ideas (or strategies) for tackling tasks such as essay writing and exams. You may like to set yourself some targets for these tasks
  • how different areas of your study are connected
  • how your study and your developing skills relate to other aspects of your life.


If you keep a journal, diary or log, make sure it is reflective. Keeping descriptive notes will not allow you to maximise learning from any experiences you have had.

If you are already engaging with a learning journal, why not take part in The Hull Employability Awards.