Individual learning log: 3 things you must know

Individual learning log

The log is a personal and analytical record of skill development gained through experiential learning. It is designed to encourage reflection on experience, and to enhance self-awareness. The objective of the log is to enable students to focus on the development of their personal and professional skills and to develop these alongside the more theoretical focus of the rest of the programme. There should be evidence of personal reflection on any activity undertaken and evidence that you will do something differently as a result of reflecting on that experience.

Within the log, students are required to write an introduction, accounts of three skills development activities, and a concluding account of their own learning journey since embarking upon their Masters programme with a CPD plan.

The activity elements of the log must be based on each of the following:-

Activity 1 – Your experience of your group presentation, either the group work or the presentation itself

Activity 2 – An activity undertaken on the module either as an exercise in class or on one of the skills development workshops

Activity 3 – One other activity which can be either a) an activity you have undertaken in part-time or voluntary work or extra-curricular activities b) on another module which illustrates a skill from the PPD syllabus (excluding presentations or group work as these have already been covered in activity 1) or c) another activity undertaken on the module.

Please note – if using an activity from outwith the module, this must be something which has happened while you have been on this programme, that is, in the last year. You should not focus on activities you have undertaken before starting your programme.

It is recognised that different students will use different activities depending on their overall learning experience on their programme and their future career aspirations. The activities should be developmental, not just the familiar things you normally do. You should try to address areas where you feel there is room for improvement, rather than focussing on existing strengths. In determining what activities you might chose, it may be useful to reflect on past feedback from, for example, previous study, appraisal discussions, colleagues and friends etc. or look forward to skills required in your chosen sector/ profession. The focus should be on actual activities where you have been involved, rather than more passive learning such as attending an event or observing someone else and should have happened during your time on the programme rather than something previously undertaken.

Please bear in mind that:

• Your planned activities are flexible: if your circumstances change you may have to reconsider which activities to include in your log. For this reason it is a good idea to have another possible activity which you could substitute if necessary.

• It is preferable to have some clear milestones at the outset rather than leaving all the writing to the end of the module. You could have most of this completed well in advance of the submission date.

• Try to write up your review and analysis of each activity promptly – it will be easier to do this while everything is fresh in your mind.

• Guidance on writing the log is given below.

• You can discuss any issues regarding the log with the PPD module tutors.


The log should cover learning activities undertaken since beginning the module. You should not focus on activities you have undertaken before starting your programme.

Sample & discussion

You will be expected to write a sample (draft) log entry and bring this to class in Trimester 2 in order to discuss it with peers and tutors. This will allow your classmates to ask you questions and comment on the draft, thus allowing sharing of ideas and hopefully deepening your reflection on your learning .

The final log will be submitted during the assessment period of Trimester 2.

Writing up the Learning Log

The Learning Log should include a brief introduction, accounts of three ‘activities’, a reflective account of your learning journey and a plan for your future continuous professional development (CPD).

Whilst the accounts in the log should explain the activities and your involvement in these, the emphasis should be on discussion and analysis of the learning and skills development arising out of the experiences.

Unlike other assignments and reports, it is normally written in the first person, i.e. “I did this …I found that ……”.

Students are still expected to make reference to theory in the log; for example, you may choose to discuss learning styles, your Belbin team role etc and if you do, these terms should be referenced.

It is important to be detailed and analytical in your comments especially in the analysis of learning. Try to write up your review and analysis of each activity promptly – it will be easier to do this while everything is fresh in your mind.

You will complete a sample log for one activity and bring this to class to discuss with your peers in class in Trimester 2 to confirm that you are ‘on the right lines’ and to enhance your reflection. As you will be discussing this log entry, do not choose a learning event which has been so personally sensitive that you will not want to share it with others. Please note that the final log may contain some sensitive and personal information; be assured that it is assessed by the PPD tutors who will treat the information confidentially.

You should use the following structure for the log:

• Introduction
• Activity One
• Activity Two
• Activity Three
• Account of learning journey
• CPD plan (in appendix and not part of wordcount)

The following pages give advice on the content and layout of each of these sections of the Learning Log.

Give an introduction – try to put your learning in context, both personally and professionally. You may want to cover some of the following:-
• your perceptions and feelings at the start of the module
• your learning journey and/or professional life to date (though keep description brief)
• Your career aspirations and the main skills you feel need developed to achieve these
• Your awareness of development needs before you undertook the module based on previous feedback
• Any literature on importance of PPD generally or your career path specifically

The following is suggested as a format for each of the log activity elements:

This should clearly state your overall aim for the activity e.g. “To develop my skill in managing conflict”. You should then present more detailed skill development objectives, highlighting particular skills, behaviours, knowledge etc that you wished to develop during the activity.

This should ‘set the scene’ and give a concise background to the activity. What was it, what led up to it, why was it happening? Your own background should also be mentioned: what previous experience have you had in this or similar activities?

A brief summary of the event. Try to set out what actually happened – a factual account of the events as you saw them. Try to limit this to a single paragraph. The emphasis should be on the next section.

Analysis of Learning

This should be an account of your reflection on the activity and the learning points in terms of skills required. Refer to your learning objectives and try to have a detailed discussion of the skills, rather than just an overview.

You should try to be honest, personal and critical in your comments on skills. You are not expected to completely develop complex skills having undertaking an activity once; the Learning Log is less concerned with the outcome of an activity and more with the learning process which you went through at the time and your subsequent reflection upon it. As such, the log is not about performance measurement – you will achieve a higher mark by reflecting on the learning from failure than by describing your success in an activity.
Future Development

Think about the learning points from the previous section and summarise here what aspects you still need to develop. Identify any future opportunities there might be to develop the skills involved. This should not be a ‘wish list’ –be realistic. What will you need to do to ensure that the opportunity arises to further develop your skills? What is the timescale involved?

Reflective account of the learning journey

After you have written up the three activities in the log, you should also have a section which is a reflective account of your own learning on this module specifically and your Masters programme in general. Reflection is a key learning skill and without it we lose the value of potentially significant learning experiences; this section of your learning log should allow you to consider past experiences or activities at work and in education, to make connections between them, to reflect upon them and to hopefully maximise your learning from those experiences.

This reflection should include the skills development activities undertaken for the learning log. Looking back over the three areas in the log, are you able to identify any common themes running through them, in terms of your strengths, weaknesses, or preferences? What have you learned about your own learning style, and your style of working? How satisfied are you that you have taken maximum advantage of opportunities available? To what extent have you moved towards achieving your development goals? What particular areas of personal and professional development can you highlight? How have these learning experiences complemented each other? What elements if your learning have you most/ least enjoyed and why? What patterns have emerged in your learning processes? How will you approach CPD in the future? Where will your learning journey take you next?

Remember that “why?” is the most useful single word to prompt learning (Gibbons 2003).

CPD Plan

You should prepare and include in your learning log, a personal CPD plan for the forthcoming 12 months. A proforma (used by the CIPD) is included in the appendices of this document. The aim of the CPD is to encourage you to continue your professional development beyond completion of your Masters programme.


It is not necessary to have appendices, apart from the CPD plan: it is more important that you can explain and discuss the skills in the log. However if you wish, you may include some material as an appendix, e.g. copy of self-evaluation questionnaire results if used as evidence in activity logs.


The log should be 3000 words in total. As a rough guide the introduction should be about 300 words and each subsequent log entry should be about 750 words and your learning journey about 500 words. The CPD plan does not count in the word count but should be included as an appendix to the main document. Remember that one of the key skills you will be attempting to develop is being able to write concisely while achieving insightful reflection.


You are required to complete a sample of one log entry and bring it to class as the basis for small group discussions aimed at clarifying your thinking and writing, and enhancing your reflection on learning. This discussion will take place in Trimester 2.

Please ensure that you use the guidance notes and that you follow the format outlined. These headings will structure your reflection and should make the reflective writing process significantly easier than if you attempt to write up your thoughts in an unstructured way.

The sample and small group discussion allows you to develop your reflective writing skills in a safe environment and ensures that you begin the reflective thinking process in adequate time to complete the full log. Many students try to put off reflective writing because they find it difficult or they don’t like to see their self-analysis in stark black and white! The writing itself helps with the reflective process; it helps to clarify your thinking, to identify gaps, to highlight imbalance in your analysis etc.

Once you have committed your thoughts to paper it also allows other people (classmates, tutors, colleagues, mentors) to read your analysis and ask pertinent questions which will hopefully prompt deeper analysis on your part and therefore place you in a better position to identify development needs and appropriate actions to overcome these needs.

Rationale for the sample and discussion

Many students struggle a little with the concept and the reality of the learning log. The writing style is very different to the rest of your academic assessments in that you are expected to write in the first person (“I”, “my” etc).
For some students this is confusing and they feel as though it is not sufficiently academically rigorous. This is not the case; the learning log requires the same level of critical thinking as any other academic exercise, the only difference is that the focus of your critical thinking is yourself rather than a theory, model of best practice or an organisational situation.

The key word throughout the reflective thinking and writing process is “why”; e.g. why did I behave that way/ feel that way/ think in that way? The “why” word ensures that you analyse rather than merely describe your learning activities.

Remember to consider the following;

• Specific learning objectives for each activity; being specific at this point helps you to analyse your behaviour and your own development and to assess where development needs remain after the activity is complete.
• Focus on skills; you will discuss activities, processes and outcomes in t your log but you should ensure that your focus is on your behaviour and the development of skills. Also consider their transferability across activities where appropriate.
• The reasons behind your thoughts/ feelings/ behaviours/ use of skills etc; try to dig deep and consider why you performed in a certain way to achieve a deeper level of reflection. For example a past students said that she was a ‘control freak’ because she wouldn’t delegate tasks to her team when leading an activity. This needs further analysis; it turned out that there were several reasons for her failure to delegate. She enjoyed the task and wanted to be hands-on; she also wanted the credit for having done the task; she believed that her team would not be able to undertake the tasks to the standard she could achieve – in some cases this was true and highlighted a development issue amongst others but the student admitted that other members of her team were actually capable of taking the tasks on board, and she felt threatened by their superior knowledge and experience. Without a deeper level of analysis the way forward is unclear.
• Future development; this should refer, as the title implies, to any development which is planned but yet to be undertaken. It should be an action plan rather than a wish list and should be written in specific terms. You should take control of your development; what will you do to ensure your further development of the skills mentioned throughout this particular learning log entry?

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