Diversity in assessment

Journals, learning logs and portfolios

There has been a considerable growth, over recent years, in the use of more reflective approaches to assessing student learning.  These can vary enormously in purpose, content and style, but an important element within all of these is the planning of goals and objectives, and personal commentary on the extent to which, and how, they have been achieved.

Journals and logs are often used in the assessment of work-based and work-related learning, particularly in clinical and other professional settings. Assessment tends to focus on the process of the experience, often involving reflection on 'critical incidents' or 'learning highlights' and on skills, rather than the gaining of subject knowledge, and provided the assessment criteria are clearly explained to students, they can be very useful in helping students to prepare for employment.

One of the major disadvantages of journals, logs and portfolios is the difficulty some students experience, through lack of familiarity and practice, with writing reflectively. The superficial accounts of events that can result from this have little educational value - for either the assessor or the assessed student.

In the right context, however - particularly where students are to be involved in so-called 'immersive' or 'transformative' experiences such as work placements or even extended field work - and with appropriate preparation and support, these highly personal approaches to learning and assessment can be very effective. 

Case studies of practice