The teacher reflects on and continuously improves own teaching and materals.

Critical reflection of your teaching is a good practice and can lead to improvement. When collecting feedback for reflection, you can look to different sources for information: students’ perspectives, colleagues’ perspectives, personal experiences, or theory/evidence (Brookfield, 2017). Critical reflection can be difficult but is linked to improvement in teaching. Similar to what we are frequently asking students to do, “to reflect, one must slow down, remain curious, and tolerate ambiguity” (ACUE, 2018). 

Listed below are strategies adapted from the Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, Oakland University, and the University of Waterloo for engaging in critical reflection of your teaching. 

 

Reflecting Based on Student Feedback

  • While course evaluations can be a useful tool to capture a summative overview of a student’s learning and experience in a course, they do little to provide feedback on how to improve a course that is in progress. Engaging your students in formative and low-stakes assessment will provide your students an outlet for giving you actionable feedback on how to improve and/or continue your support of students in your course.  

You can approach the types of questions you ask through several lenses – you may want to gauge learning, get a sense of what students think about the course, or see how students' lives are being affected outside of school. First, establish your purpose, then design your question protocol or tool. Some examples of questions include: 

  • What helps/hinders your learning in this course? 
  • What suggestions do you have for me to improve learning in this course? 
  • What do you like most/least about this course so far? 
  • What should we start/stop/keep doing in this course? 
  • What specific advice would you give to help your instructor improve learning in this course? 

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are simple, non-graded activities to gather feedback from students on teaching and learning. They are not meant to assess an individual student’s understanding, but to gather understanding from the whole class. They can be done in person or through technology tools.  For a list of 50 CATs, visit the University of Kentucky’s Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching.

Here are two examples that you may want to utilize in your course: 

  1. MINUTE PAPER: Give students one minute to respond to 2 questions - “What is the most important thing you learned today?” and “What is something important you still need to learn?” The papers should be collected, but anonymous. You can do this on an actual sheet of paper in a face-to-face course, create a shared Word Document, share the link with students, and have students type in the information anonymously. You could also create a 1 question open response question in Microsoft Forms.
  2. MUDDIEST POINT: Give students the opportunity to respond to the question, “What was the most confusing point during class today?” Like the minute paper, you can do this on a notecard/piece of paper in a face-to-face course, through a shared Word Document, or through a Microsoft Form.    

Whether collected via end-of-semester evaluation, mid-semester check-in, or by using a CAT, Institute for Teaching & Learning (ITL) staff are available to help you make meaning of your students’ feedback. Book a consult with ITL staff.  
 

Reflecting Based on your Colleagues’ Feedback

Consider inviting someone you trust, like a colleague in your department, as an observer into your classroom. We recommend meeting beforehand with them to discuss priorities. While there are plenty of Observation Protocols or Teaching Inventories (see a list of examples), you can simply list things you’d like your observer to provide feedback on. We recommend reviewing the full TEACH framework for ideas on what you’d like observed. For example: Are you presenting information in a way that students are engaged? Are you regularly checking for students’ understanding during class? Is your class session organized in a way that makes sense? Are you encouraging participation for ALL students or just a certain group of students? After the peer observation, be sure to meet and debrief. Be open to their feedback.

You can also invite an ITL staff to visit your class by booking a consult. Before the observation we will discuss your goals for the observation and what you hope to get out of it. ITL staff will also provide a follow-up/debrief of the observation. Class observations are CONFIDENTIAL and meant to provide formative feedback. No information from your observation will be shared with students, colleagues, or supervisors.  

We also encourage you to participate in ITL book groups, podcast clubs, and/or workshops. These spaces provide opportunities for teaching and learning-related discussions with colleagues and are a great plan to ask questions, gather feedback, and reflect on your teaching. Check out the Upcoming Workshops and Events page, or follow @YSU_ITL on Twitter for upcoming opportunities. 
 

Engaging in Self-Reflection

Journaling can be a useful tool for reflecting and improving your teaching. Consider spending a few minutes after class each day to write down or audio-record yourself answering some general questions, such as: What went well in class today? What could I have done differently? Are there things I plan to change for the future? Engaging in a few minutes of self-reflection can go a long way in improving your teaching. You may also consider recording one of your courses and then watching it back and asking similar questions. 

Consider also utilizing an inventory or instrument for self-reflection. Here are a few to consider for self-evaluation and reflection: 


Reflecting Based on Research and Theory

In addition to workshops and events hosted by ITL, there are loads of resources available sharing evidence-based strategies to improve your teaching. Maag Library provides access to 133 peer reviewed journals tagged with Higher Education, with many of those focused on teaching and learning. In addition to checking out journals that are specific to your discipline, ITL recommends taking advantage of some of these more general resources:  

If you can’t find what you are looking for in ITL’s resources, you may also consider exploring Teaching and Learning Center resource pages from other universities. Here are a few that provide a great overview of best practices for teaching: