On Learning Journals

A learning journal is an optional but recommended part of this course.

A learning journal is a sequence of free-form entries commenting on lectures, the companion booklet and exercises, written during (not after) the course.

Write an entry on every lecture you attend and every exercise you attempt to solve. Entries should comment on, not summarise, its subject matter. The point is to exercise your critical thinking faculties. A good comment makes a particular point explicit, referring to source material (such as lecture content) without repeating it; criticizes an assertion made in lectures; and argues for a particular point. Comments can be emotional, even pointed. Feedback to the lectures can and should be included. Be sure to comment on the booklet as well, not just on the lectures!

Writing the journal is intended to enhance your own perception of the subject matter of the course; writing (not just pondering) enables deep thoughts. However, in order for it to succeed, it should mainly concentrate on the substance of our course (though, as indicated above, feedback is appreciated). You might want to try to answer the following questions in each entry:

A learning journal is assessed; highest mark on the learning journal merits an automatic 3 from the course, without the need to take an exam. Lower but acceptable marks translate to bonus points for the exam. At a minimum, a learning journal must comment on at least seven lectures in order to merit bonus points for the exam.


  1. The best learning journals demonstrate deep understanding: The student is clearly able to integrate newly learned things to a larger context and to the knowledge ey already possesses. Ey demonstrates the capability of applying new information in new situations and contexts as well as evaluating eir own decisions. The student has created eir own view on the subject and is capable of coming up with new approaches to the subject.
  2. If not the best, then certainly at least excellent are those journals that demonstrate understanding of concepts and their relations: The student has clearly obtained a unified picture of the subject and demonstrated the capability to apply the things ey has learned. Ey can also distinguish between good and bad applications of the theory.
  3. Good journals demonstrate understanding: The student is clearly capable of understanding concepts and ideas in isolation, and demonstrates ability to think about them. Ey has not yet formed a unified picture of the subject and cannot apply what ey has learned.
  4. Passing journals demonstrate limited understanding: The student has learned some concepts and definitions but is not able to understand the subject fully due to misunderstandings.
  5. If the journal demonstrates no understanding, the journal cannot be accepted. In these cases, the student has not put eir mind to the assignment. Such a journal shows fundamental misunderstanding or is clearly incomplete. (Note that at least seven lectures need entries in a passing journal.)

It would be good if you could put your learning journal online (it is not required). If you do, please email me the URL. If you don't want me to put the URL on this page, mention it in the mail.

Learning journals must be written individually (not cooperatively), in English (Finnish is acceptable but not recommended).

At least the following journals are online:

See also the lecturer's Teaching Journal.

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2004-03-11 <antkaij@mit.jyu.fi>