Thoughts on the learning log, coursework and progress

Since I read this post on the weareoca blog a couple of weeks ago, I have been reflecting on how effective my blog is and especially, how well it represents my learning journey. A couple of interactions with members of the OCA community this week have helped crystallise my thoughts and seed a germ of what I need to do to change going forward.

Firstly, I attended my first Forum Live hangout event. This is a regular hangout event which is structured to provide feedback for current work or to discuss particular question raised. It is facilitated each fortnight by a different student and attended by OCA tutor and assessor Clive White. I had followed the development of this initiative with interest in the OCA student forums but until this event had been unable to join. As I have commented before when reflecting on the documentary hangouts I attend, being able to spend some time discussing topics with fellow students in a face to face (albeit digital) environment is a fantastic antidote to the isolation of distance learning. Clearly the rest of the contributors on the call had already built a rapport and I mainly listened to what they had to say and familiarised myself with the format. An unexpected benefit was putting voices and faces to the people behind the avatars that are familiar on the forums. The nuances of communication are so easily lost or misinterpreted through the written word, and, Clive probably summed this up when he said that mostly he comments with his tongue firmly in his cheek!

The benefit of having Clive on the calls is the way he freely shares his insight into what he sees as a tutor and assessor. A couple of these comments resonated with me – firstly, he mentioned his frustration at seeing lots of research on a students blog and then seeing no evidence of this translating into the work. In Clive’s opinion, everything the student is looking at should be being translated into developing their work and the ability to interrogate this in the learning log is essential and something the assessors are looking at in assessment. Secondly he made the revelatory comment that the exercises part of the learning log are rarely looked at in assessment – in fact they are probably only considered if a student is in danger of failing. What the assessors are looking for is personal engagement and reflection – something that the weareoca blog post I refer to above also states. Looking back at my blog I am struck that I probably fall into the traps described. Most importantly however, I need to consider how effectively I spend my time – I am half way through the course with six months to go and while I am enjoying the coursework immensely (one of the reasons I am spending so much time on it) it is the work that is important. The reality of my situation is I have a finite amount of time I can spend studying and I need to make sure this is effective. Having arrived at documentary having completed UVC – a completely academic course – I also need to consider that my current emphasis on research and coursework is a result of this having become my comfort zone – I need to push myself out of this.

These thoughts were further solidified with a meeting later that week with fellow students Lynda Wearn and Keith Johnson. We have met up for exhibition visits a few times before, the last being in January. When asked how I was progressing I had to admit slowly! For some reason articulating this to my peers combined with the thoughts I had already been having about my progress provided a light bulb moment – the choice I have is either continue the way I am going, slowly but thoroughly or to change my ways of working and come up with another way that will result in both faster progression and better demonstration of how the research I am doing is informing both my thinking and practice. The biggest impact I have timewise is how long I spend writing up exercises, so perhaps  increased discipline in this area is the magic bullet…only time will tell but here is my plan expressed as stop, start and continue:

Stop:

  • spending too much time writing up exercises.
  • Following research avenues that are distracting or irrelevant. For example, the exercise I am currently working on asks a specific question about Martin Parr’s practice – this does not need to be an analysis of his entire career.

Start:

  • Use the blog to present more personal responses.
  • Bring all aspects of the course back to how this affects and influences my work.

Continue:

  • Engaging with students through hangouts, the forums and study visits.
  • Keep reading BUT everything I read does not need to be included in a blog post!

Bibliography:

Norrington, A. (2018) The learning log. Weareoca: The Open College of the Arts Blog. Available at: https://weareoca.com/subject/photography/the-learning-log-2/ [accessed 29th April 2018]

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