The Daily Task Log is a great way to track your studies. It is best used in conjunction with the materials on Beginning Your Assessment and After Completing Your Assessment.
This log is largely based on Michael Hunter Schwartz, Expert Learning for Law Students (Carolina Academic Press, 2nd ed, 2008), and his research on the Self-Regulated Learning Cycle. The Facilitated Study Groups program is heavily indebted to him for granting us his permission to use his method. Expert Learning for Law Students is available in the university library in the High Use section.
Start of the Day
At the start of each day, write out three tasks that you must accomplish into the Daily Task Planner. Assign a time to study each task. You may work on other tasks throughout the course of the day, but make sure that you complete the three tasks that you have set for yourself. Before you begin each task, write it down in the log.
Try to account for your energy levels – you should tackle the most difficult tasks early or after lunch, the tasks that involve less ‘processing’ power or are highly repetitive should be approached later in the day or during lulls in your energy.
If you are failing to complete the tasks that you set yourself, make them smaller – instead of ‘complete Topic 5’, make it ‘read Donoghue v Stevenson‘. Conversely, if you are completing them too easily, consider more complex or larger tasks.
- Before starting each task, spend a few seconds thinking about
- Where it fits into the subject, for example, after reading a case you will have read 50% of Topic 10, which means you will understand contributory negligence, etc. You may wish to use the reading guide to help you to do this.
- How it fits into your goals for after university. For example, how will it help you get the job you want? How is it relevant to the areas of law that you might be interested in practicing in?
- How it fits in with your personal interests – will it be practical to you? Are you interested in the subject for its own sake?
- Fill out the log up to the “Review” tab. Be as honest as you can.
At the end of the day, review what you have accomplished and spend a few minutes thinking about whether you are satisfied with your progress, and whether you could make any improvements in your study approach for the next day.
Ideally, this process should become a habit. With time, you may no longer need to fill out the log – you will automatically analyse your progress effectively as you go.
Two formats have been provided: vertical and horizontal. The horizontal log is easier to make comparisons with, however you may prefer the vertical format as this can easily be printed and bound, and has more space to write. It will make comparison of different study strategies more difficult, however, and may cause problems at the review stage.
Explanation of the Log
Some of the terms in the log will be self-explanatory, however, some might be a little difficult to truly understand without having read Expert Learning for Law Students.
- Self-assessment terms – Some of the terms call for a subjective assessment – for example, importance and difficulty. You can assess these however you wish, but try to be consistent and really think about your assessment.
- End goal – This simply asks you to think about what the each task is building towards. For example, writing a H1 essay.
- Learning goal – The learning goal should ideally be what Michael Hunter Schwartz calls a mastery goal – for example, memorise the reasoning of the judges in a complex case, or be able to recite the 5 steps of contract formation with 100% accuracy. At first, however, you may only set relatively basic ones – eg complete the readings for the next class.
- Strategy or Strategies – Michael Hunter Schwartz describes several strategies in Chapter 7 of Expert Learning for Law Students, however, you can also devise your own. Strategies should be tailored to the learning task that you are undertaking. For example, if you are reading a case, strategies might include pre-reading the case, undertaking background research or note taking.
- The list of strategies cited in Schwartz may appear ominous at first – but note that it is simply a list of tools available to you. By using this list you will be able to discover new ways of approaching university assessments.
- Step(s) taken – This column allows you to assess the effectiveness of the steps that you have taken to achieve your learning goals. This helps you to measure the efficiency of your approach. Thinking about the steps that you will need to take at the outset of the task will also help you to focus your attention on the task at hand.
- Efficiency – You can either self-evaluate your efficiency, or you can attempt to roughly calculate it. One means of calculating your efficiency, which is recommended by Michael Hunter Schwarz, is:
Focus + Comprehension + Importance
Time taken (in hours) + Difficulty
Using the Digital Task Log
The digital version of the Daily Task Log will make analysing your study data far easier. Here is a basic guide to using it.
- Copy the Daily Task Log into your own Google Drive. You should have a Drive account linked to your student email account, and you may have your own personal Drive account.
- Open the Daily Task Log.
- Fill out the relevant sections each time you study. Google Sheets will automatically calculate the following:
- Actual time studied
- This checklist is largely based on the Self-Regulated Learning Cycle as described in Michael Hunter Schwartz, Expert Learning for Law Students(Carolina Academic Press, 2nd ed, 2008).
- In his excellent book Expert Learning for Law Students, Schwartz sets out some of the habits of the most effective learners. His theories (combined with several others, cited below) have been combined into the table below. Students who wish to excel at law school need to constantly adapt and review their approach to study – this task log is the best way to do this.
- Conceptualising your task in relation to the overall subject and your life goals is an important step for two reasons:
- Amabile and Kramer have found that productivity is greatly improved by making progress on your work. This includes taking small steps towards your ultimate goals. Hence, it is highly valuable to reflect and review your progress and accomplishments at the end of each day. As making ‘progress’ a matter of perception as well as fact, visualising the role of your task in terms of post-university goals, and its position in the course, should assist in perceiving your tasks as making progress towards a larger goal. For more on Progress Theory, see https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins.
- Schwartz cites research that has found that invoking ‘self-interest’ (i.e. relating the subject to your own interests to improve engagement) and ‘self-efficacy’ (i.e. recalling a time when you have successfully accomplished a similar task in order to reduce anxiety) is one of the steps of the planning process most correlated with student success. In addition to engaging with these tasks when beginning your assessments, it can be helpful to recall why you are studying each task before undertaking it.
- Furthermore, considering the position of the task in relation to the subject as a whole helps to position it within what Michael Hunter Schwarz calls a schema. It also prepares you to actively engage with the task.
Schwartz identifies four key categories of learning task:
- Reading Comprehension;
- Synthesis (making sense of competing cases);
- Problem-solving and
- Exam Preparation.
In turn, exam preparation consists of four separate sub-tasks –
- Issue spotting (aka concept-learning) and
- Principle-learning (aka application).
For further information see Michael Hunter Schwartz, Expert Learning for Law Students (Carolina Academic Press, 2nd ed, 2008).
This list may appear ominous at first – but note that it is simply a list of tools available to you. By using this list you will be able to discover new ways of approaching university assessments.
- Reading strategies
- Class preparation
- Organisational strategies
- Deconstructing rules
- Comparison charts
- Hierarchy charts
- Mind maps
- Memorisation strategies
- Chunking and clustering
- Creating examples (and non-examples)
- Research strategies
- Research planning
- Research logs
- Legal writing
- Creating a check-list of questions to be answered
- Reading aloud
- Emulating and adapting the work of experts
- Issue spotting
- Exam preparation
- Using IRAC method
- Practice exam HPAs
- Practice essay questions
- Analysing past exam questions
- Creating your own questions
- Time management strategies
- Creating calendars
- Goal setting
- Stress management strategies
- Invoking self-efficacy
- Planning attention-focusing
- Deep breathing and progressive relaxation
- Seeking assistance
Taken from Michael Hunter Schwartz, Expert Learning for Law Students (Carolina Academic Press, 2nd ed, 2008).