4.4.1 Writing: Reflections, log books, portfolios and reports

Structured reflections can help students to find connections between pieces of knowledge and abilities and to get hold of the bigger picture. Students can for example reflect upon how the team is developing, how the project work is progressing and how roles in the team are changing as well as on how the student as an individual is experiencing the team work. There are a number of options when it comes to where the reflections can be written, e.g. in log books, essays as well as in reflective journals or portfolios. There are also several options regarding if and how the reflections are read by the other students. For example, one may read the text for a small group of students (and teacher/s) and accessing their knowledge and experience of how things can be understood and viewed by others. All groups   should undertake the same procedure in turn. What should be noted is that the reflection meeting is not a place for opinions, only for experience and knowledge sharing; it is absolutely not a place for critique. It is a place for creativity and learning where everybody should feel safe to open up and discuss in a safe atmosphere.

A portfolio is a document in which students can gather artefacts, reflect and develop their capabilities over a long time period. In design domains, projects can be conveyed in a number of different ways without the divide of right/wrong solutions. Gathering artefacts of projects achieved is also showing one’s design ability that hardly could be described otherwise. The portfolio can be divided into three levels: The public, the restricted and the personal. The public is open for the world and show achievements and artefacts. The restricted is open for the working groups, like peers and teachers, here you can motivate your choices and get feedback. The personal level is where you reflect about your strengths and shortcomings and how you intend to develop your design ability and this level can be open only to yourself.

Log books are normally used over a short time period, e.g. during a course. Log books can also be divided into levels: the group log book, available for peers and teachers, and the individual log book, available only for teachers (30). 

For additional information on portfolios, see https://arc.uchicago.edu/reese/projects/using-portfolios-promote-knowledge-integration-engineering-education

An Example on assessment forms in Integrated Product Development: Students previously wrote about their work in a log book. The log book contained diary entries, which included both reflections on what they had learned and information about things that were done, which was rather confusing for the students. Now, we have separated it into two parts; lessons learned and a portfolio. Lessons learned contains what the students have learned; it is handed in regularly and is included in the assessment. The portfolio contains what has been achieved, is handed in twice per semester, and the final submission is included in the assessment.

Having a final report of the project work as the major assessment task is very common in project courses. In some courses, the final report is interwoven in several learning activities throughout the course, so that the teams write drafts that are used in coaching sessions, and in peer learning activities. The decision on structure and contents can be made by the department, the teacher or by the students themselves.

Students report writing skills can be trained through different activities. Often the supervisor gives feedback directly to each team’s drafts. By doing so, you might end up with lots of detailed work, and students only adjusting according to your feedback, without actually improving their writing skills. One way to improve this method can be to give general feedback to the whole class, and ask them to improve their texts accordingly.

Other forms of training writing skills can be to hand out students earlier work, both strong and weaker texts, and ask students to read and give feedback on the texts. You can also design a short activity where you ask all students to list a title, headings and subheadings that would be needed in a specific report to, for instance, convince a target group of an urgent matter. This activity could be blended with a peer learning activity, where students read and discuss each other’s lists.

An example from the Degree Project in Biotechnology
: The teams shall document their work (project plan, partial deliveries, time and activity) in a group log book. We also have an individual log book in which the students document their reflections and comments on group work, problems with cooperation, and questions they have that need to be discussed. 

An example from Electronic Design:
The students write in a log book with two parts, one individual and one group log book. In the group log book, they write about tasks performed and what to do next etc.  It shows how the group is progressing. The individual log book is personal and not available for the other students to read and it contains reflections. The reflections also show the ability to assess their own work, especially concerning the process.

An example from the First Year Project Course in Electrical Engineering: The students prepare a poster and a final report. For the poster, the students get guidelines on how to design the poster, e.g. which headlines to use (title of the project, names of team members, the problem/task, and the solutions/results) and format. For the final report, they get instructions integrated into lectures on project planning. Additionally, the students also give an oral presentation of their projects. All these tasks align to the ILOs on communication (i.e. to present technical information in oral and written form, and to create the fundamental documents required for planning, following up, and finishing a project).

Suggestion: To support the students’ development of communication skills, assessment forms containing writing reports as well as reflective texts in e.g. portfolios are suggested. Consider your intended learning outcomes and the overall perspective before deciding on type of report, to assure the students’ progression of communication skills during the education.

Administrator Oskar Bergman created page 18 July 2014

Administrator Marie Magnell changed the permissions 27 January 2015

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