Reflect on Your Teaching

What is reflective thinking? Reflective thinking is part of the critical thinking process that asks you to analyze and make judgments about what has happened. Gibb’s model of reflection clearly offers the reflective process.

  1. Description: What happened?
  2. Feelings: What were you thinking and feeling?
  3. Evaluation: What was good and bad about the experience?
  4. Analysis: What sense can you make of the situation?
  5. Conclusion: What else could you have done?
  6. If it arose again, what would you do?

Why reflect on teaching? We ought to thoughtfully reflect on our teaching in order to improve. Remember to target your refection on feedback toward a pedagogical purpose. For example, rather than focus on whether or not you made a mistake in the classroom, consider how potential mistakes affect students and how you modeled correcting that mistake. Ultimately, reflecting on our teaching should make us better teachers.

How do you reflect on teaching? There are many ways to reflect on your teaching. For example, you could keep a teaching journal, ask for peer observations, record your class, and solicit student feedback. Writing in a teaching journal can be a very powerful exercise. It will be very easy to forget which activity flopped or was a success months after the class is over. Writing down your teaching experiences is a great way to capture your teaching experiences so that you can both reproduce great teaching moments and find ways to improve on teaching challenges. As you record your reflections, you will want to consider two types of reflection: reflection in action and reflection on action. Reflection in action is what you did in the moment to bring about or address a teaching success or challenge. For example, a form of reflection in action might be to redirect disruptive students during an in-class activity. Reflection on action is what you do afterward: for example, you might write about that teaching experience in your teaching journal as a form of reflection on action. It will be helpful to record both types of reflection.

What do you do with your reflections? After you record your reflections, think about what you might have done differently or what you want to keep the same. It will also be helpful to talk to colleagues about your teaching, especially in cases of severe teaching challenges. Talking through something is a great way to surface ideas that would not come up if we had just kept them in our heads. You might not even know what to do about a particular teaching situation, so asking trusted peers and faculty members what they would do is invaluable to solving your teaching issues. In addition, try reading some educational literature about a specific teaching challenge. A critical component of reflection is to create an action plan. Ask yourself:

  • What will you do the next time this teaching issue arises?
  • Is this teaching issue preventable? If yes, what could you do to prevent it? If no, what could you do to prepare for or mitigate its effects in future?

Teaching Inventories: To practice reflection, you can use existing inventories to help you flesh out specific issues. Whether you are new to teaching or a seasoned educator, it can be quite illuminating to examine your beliefs around teaching. Try using the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI). This questionnaire helps you to think about your teaching along five core perspectives: 1) transmission, 2) apprenticeship, 3) developmental, 4) nurturing, and 5) social reform. In this video, Daniel D. Pratt discusses how to interpret your TPI results and use them as a way to start a conversation about teaching. He also recommends that you take this questionnaire every so often because as we change and grow as teachers, our beliefs about teaching are altered as well. The TPI does not test you for specific perspectives that you should have but rather, through a series of questions, reveals to you in which teaching perspectives your priorities lie and gives you some data to think about your personal teaching practice. This is a useful exercise because in order to figure out the direction of your teaching path, you first need to figure out where you are.