In the summer time, many students pursue internship opportunities, study abroad programs and other activities outside the traditional law school curriculum. It’s a good time for self-directed learning. You can read about the characteristics of self-directed learners in the article “Learner, Direct Thyself” by Gerry Sexton, M.D. at LiNE Zine.
One of the tools for more effective learning is a personal learning portfolio. When you hear the word “portfolio,” you may think of artists or designers creating a representative sample of their works. A learning portfolio, however, is a record of your personal learning experience, and it can be created by anybody. What are the benefits of a learning portfolio?
- It makes your learning more purposeful.
- It’s a place to record your learning goals.
- It allows you to track your own progress.
- It will keep you motivated because it is also a record of your personal victories.
- It focuses your attention.
- It teaches you to be a reflective learner.
- It can be a springboard for your job-search and career development strategies.
It’s up to you to decide how you want to structure your learning portfolio, but here is a simple format to get your started:
- Identify the content of your learning. What is it that you want to know? For example, as a summer associate, you may want to choose your favorite areas of practice, decide whether you like the firm’s culture, learn how to write good memos and how to network, etc.
- Write down the reasons why you want to learn those things. How does your learning fit into the larger context of your personal development, career objectives, social life? You are more likely to achieve your goal if you have a reminder of why it is important.
- Determine how you are going to accomplish your learning objectives. What experiences do you need to have? How do you develop the skills you need? Who can be your teacher / role model / mentor? Create your own learning curriculum filled with the activities that can boost your professional and personal development.
- Figure out how you can measure you progress. How do you know that you have reached your goal? What are your milestones? Record your successes and challenges.
- Reflect on your learning process. Write down your observations of what works and what doesn’t work for you. How could you learn more effectively?
- Find the ways to use and apply your new knowledge and skills. How can you learn more by doing?
- Have a section where you can record random comments and observations, clip images that appeal to you, write down quotations, ask yourself questions and just let your thoughts flow onto the paper without reservations.
Have you ever used learning portfolios? How did they work for you? Let me know.