Each lesson is a treasure trove of learning moments, not just for your students, but for you, the educator too. The best educators will tell you that they learn lessons each time they teach, evaluating what they do and using these self-critical re-evaluations to adjust what they do the next time. Viewed in this way, even a bad lesson can be considered a good lesson.
Experience is a great teacher but it is often the deliberate, purposeful and critical reflection that follows which produces the most learning gains, and sets apart the reflective educator from those less so. Reflection is applied to gain a better understanding of relatively complicated or unstructured ideas, largely based on the reprocessing of knowledge understanding and emotions that we already possess. (Moon 2005).
Here are some tips and suggestions on how to engage in reflections effectively and meaningfully:
After each class:
- Grade your class participation: Class participation is a common assessment component in SMU’s interactive pedagogy. Recording and tracking class participation is most effectively done as soon after a lesson as possible, when your recall of classroom events is sharpest and your thoughts are likely to be most responsive. It is also an ideal time to reflect on how the teaching and learning for the class had progressed. Here are some suggested techniques on managing class participation for your consideration:
- Enlist the help of TAs to take note of who participated and what they said
- Print out a table with your students’ photographs and space for observation notes to be recorded. The visual element is an important aid to trigger recall of what transpired. Record your observations as soon after the class as is feasible to complement what your TAs have noted down.
- Leverage on online platforms that maintain a record of interactions (e.g. discussion forums, online chats, comment left on Google Documents)
Use guiding questions to make your reflections deliberate and purposeful. Note down your thoughts as soon as practically possible after each lesson. Some faculty note down their thoughts in a Word document and save in their laptop folder along with the rest of their lesson materials, for referencing either later in the course or when they are starting to teach it again.
Gibbs’ model of reflection may be instructive in this respect (below). Alternatively, click here for a more situational approach to reflecting on your lesson.
- Description: What happened? Identify critical incidents from the lesson. Refrain from judging at this stage. Merely describe.
- Feelings: What were you thinking and feeling?
- Evaluation: What was good or bad about the experience?
- Analysis: What sense can you make about the situation?
- Conclusion: What else could you have done?
- Action plan: What would you do differently next time? What steps are you going to take on the basis of what you have learnt?
Towards the end of the course:
- Committing to a regular, scholarly practice of critical reflection can feed strategically into two well regarded strategic professional outcomes. You may consider conducting action and pedagogy research, incorporating educational technology in your teaching and / or building up a teaching portfolio (below).
- Teaching portfolios are a systematic way of engaging yourself to reflect regularly on your teaching. The process of creating one requires you to articulate your teaching philosophy, review your teaching strategies and clarify your teaching goals. An intelligently curated teaching portfolio is an advantage during performance appraisal, promotion and tenure review, as well as nominations for teaching excellence awards in SMU. It also underscores your efforts towards a more public, professional view of teaching as a scholarly activity
- A typical teaching portfolio compiles evidence of your teaching and comprises selection of historical and reflective documents that highlight aspects of your course design, teaching and learning assessment and teaching development. These include
- documents you produce (e.g. teaching philosophy statement, video recordings of your teaching, course outlines, lesson materials such as quizzes, activities, and lesson slide excerpts, along with accompanying explanations and self-evaluations, teaching consultations you rendered, sample feedback you provided to your students, teaching innovations)
- documents from your peers, students and institutions (e.g. discussion notes from peer review sessions, classroom observations, FACETS student feedback, teaching awards, professional development certificates, invitations to share at teaching events, statements from colleagues).
- documents demonstrating student achievement (e.g. student grades, student work samples, employer feedback, statements from alumni)
- Your school may also have forms for you to report on your teaching related achievements. A teaching portfolio can contribute towards such school processes, as well as complement them. Please contact CTE if you are keen to understand how to shape and put together a useful portfolio.
- Brookfield, S. D. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. John Wiley & Sons.
- Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by doing: A guide to learning and teaching methods. Birmingham: Sced.
- Seldin, P. (1993). Successful use of teaching portfolios. Anker Publishing Co., Inc., 176 Ballville Rd., PO Box 249, Bolton, MA 01740-0249