As an instructor, you’ve got grading to do, students to meet with, and lessons to plan. When you’re facing all this work, it might seem unrealistic to add “reflect on teaching” to your task list. However, studies have shown that reflecting on your teaching improves the classroom experience for your students (through better learning) and for you (by reworking instruction-related tasks to ultimately take less time and effort).
What does it mean to reflect on your teaching? Reflecting involves more than listing what activities and content you bring to the classroom. Successful reflection allows an instructor to identify classroom issues, gather helpful information, and make an informed decision on next steps (Dewey 1933; Goodsett 2014).
The following are some good methods for partaking in positive teacherly reflections:
- Journaling: Try writing about specific moments and classes in which you were a student. Look at what positive moments you wrote about and try to define what made them positive. How can you compare these moments to your own teaching practices (Cornish and Jenkins 2012)? Also, try writing about your own teaching. After a class, sit down and write about what worked well during class and what could have gone better (Goodsett 2014). After a few times of writing, see if you can pick out any common themes.
- Video Recording: Create a video of your instruction and re-watch it, while asking yourself reflective questions. This can help you better understand what it is like to be a student in your classroom (McCullagh 2012).
- Classroom Observation: Sometimes we need an outsider’s opinion, so you should consider having someone attend your class to provide feedback (Goodsett 2014). Ask a colleague to attend your class or set up a classroom observation with the CITL. If you ask the CITL to give you feedback, we will meet with you to discuss your concerns and debrief with you after, giving suggestions on how to improve your instruction.
Engaging in reflective exercises can help you focus on what you would like to improve. After partaking in a reflection exercise, try to target one practice you would like to change. After deciding on the issue on which you’d like to focus, converse with a colleague about it, arrange a consultation with the CITL, and/or do some reading on how to improve this practice. These reflective practices may also help you understand what is most important to you about your discipline. What common learning outcomes do you establish and what methods do you use to help students reach these goals? This type of thinking provides the foundations for a teaching statement, a document often needed for academic job searches.
Reflecting on one’s instructional practices can be difficult, because it is opening yourself to criticism and it may require initial time to create changes (Schuck and Russell 2005). However, reflection can also help you see the positives in your teaching and help you understand what you value about your discipline (Goodsett 2014).
If you want to learn more about teaching statements, attend our upcoming webinar where we discuss the document and how to get started on writing your own. Do you need help establishing a reflection exercise for your teaching? Consider meeting with a CITL staff member to discuss what would work best for you. If you want to gain an outsider’s perspective on your instructional practices, set up a classroom observation with the CITL.
Cornish, Linley and Kathy Ann Jenkins (2012). Encouraging Teacher Development through Embedding Reflective Practice in Assessment. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education 40: 159-170.
Dewey, John (1933).
Goodsett, Mandi (2004). Reflective Teaching: Improving Library Instruction through Self-Reflection. Southeastern Librarian 62(3): 12-15.
McCullagh, John F. (2012). How Can Video Supported Reflection Enhance Teachers’ Professional Development? Cultural Studies of Science Education 7: 137-152.
Schuck, Sandy and Tom Russell (2005). Self-Study, Critical Friendship, and the Complexities of Teacher Education. Teacher Education 1: 107-121.