1.5 Making the most of your reflections
The value of the work you do on all the activities in this course will be strengthened if you can keep track of it and follow the development of your own ideas as they build up. It helps to keep your notes in one place, together with other material which catches your interest for its relevance to the subject, such as newspaper cuttings, journal articles and reports, and so on. The place where you keep them may be a box file, ring binder or anything else that suits your preference. Whatever you use, it provides a tangible reminder of the learning process you are engaged in. I shall refer to this collection as a 'learning file', and suggest that you use it to work on activities of all kinds throughout the course.
The completion and return of each of your assignments could also be used as an opportunity for self-review and planning, recorded in your learning file. The questions you ask yourself about the grade and the reasons for it are a necessary basis for self-review and action planning. You should also use the opportunity to follow up with further research if you are left with uncertainties about your work or the areas in which you need to improve.
While studying this course you may also decide to build up a 'virtual' learning file on your computer, by setting up a special file on your hard disk where you record activities and reactions to what you have studied. The OpenLearn Comments sections can also provide a very valuable opportunity to find out about other learners' reactions and to stimulate your own thinking (but too much of it can also be time consuming and confusing – a proper balance is needed). You might find it convenient to build up both a computer-based learning file and a hard-copy learning file, each complementing the other.
You will find more suggestions for building up a learning file of this kind in Box 2 'Setting up a learning file'. If this is an idea you are already familiar with, and keeping a log of your own learning appeals to you, then you can now see how your approach is a strength you can build on. If you are not used to organising your work in this way, remember that the idea of a learning file is to create a 'thinking space' for active reflection on your learning. It can take whatever form you prefer and which is most likely to stimulate you to take an active approach to study. You might like to use the self-review activities below, entitled 'Building on strengths' as a first entry in your learning file.
Box 2 Setting up a learning file
A learning file is a way of making the time and space to think about what you are learning and how you are learning. It should help you to reflect critically during the study of your course and to get the most out of the efforts you put in. It's something you are in charge of, to use for yourself. It need not be something you discuss with your tutor, or indeed anyone else, though it may help you structure your work more productively, building up to the assignments.
Tips for keeping your own learning file:
Your learning file may be a ring binder, a box file or a folder of some kind – the important thing is that you have a place where you build up your own ideas and abilities and which is organised so that you can use it for your own self-review and development. Your learning file may include your work on the activities, reactions which relate to course issues, drawings/diagrams, newspaper cuttings, notes on the subject that you are studying and so on.
If you are not used to this way of working, try to make a start at the beginning of the course and find a way of building up your reflections and other material which fits with your approach to study. You can use the activities in this and other related units as the starting point. This should create the stimulus for you to work on questions and activities which you set yourself.
Your learning file is for you. Its value is for capturing thoughts and ideas while you are still working things out, or coming to terms with new ideas and reactions. Don't try to write the kind of organised text which you might use in an assignment or essay. You might make more discoveries about your learning if you are spontaneous and don't inhibit the flow of your thinking by concerns with grammar or structure.
Try to set aside a few minutes at the end of your study time, for looking back through your entries and reflecting on the development of your own ideas and interests. You might do this once or twice a week. Your learning file is a place for you to review your own progress and whether you are getting what you want out of course study.
Whether or not you are naturally an organised person, it does help to date your entries and to keep careful page references or cues to audio and video material which prompted your thinking. This will enable you to go back to course materials if you need to at a later stage. A learning file is obviously a useful activity from the point of view of revision prior to the exam. It encourages you to digest the course as you go, and to build up a framework of personal understanding. If you have been able to do this during the course, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed by how much there is to revise at the end.