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Developing a reflective teaching practice

Our university is built on a commitment to using the power of discovery, creativity, and analytical thinking to solve challenges, including those we encounter in the process of teaching. While consulting the scholarship of teaching and learning is a good way to identify effective teaching strategies, the most important dimension of an effective teaching practice is reflection.

What is “reflective” teaching?

The American philosopher and educational reformer, John Dewey, considered reflection crucial to learning. As Dewey scholar, Carol Rodgers, notes, Dewey framed reflection as “a systematic, rigorous, disciplined way of thinking” that led to intellectual growth.

Because our students are so diverse and there’s so much variety in instructional contexts, good teaching requires instructors to observe, reflect upon, and adapt their teaching practice. In addition to identifying areas for improvement in your teaching, reflection is also core to an inclusive teaching practice.

Reflective practices

There are lots of ways to be thoughtful about your teaching, but here are a few for each point in the quarter.

Before the beginning of the quarter:

  • Reflect on the goals you have for the course. What do you want students to be able to do by the time they leave your course?
  • Reflect on your own mix of identities. How has privilege or oppression shaped your perspectives?
  • Reflect on how your discipline creates knowledge and decides what knowledge is valuable. How has this constrained what and how you teach?

During the quarter:

  • Keep a journal to briefly jot down your observations of student interactions and experiences in the classroom. Note things that are working and things you might want to change.
  • Get an outside perspective. Ask a colleague, friend, or CTL consultant to come in and observe a class and your interactions with students and/or course materials.
  • Conduct a mid-quarter evaluation to gather information on how the course is going. Ask yourself what you can do to relieve the pain points that students identified in the evaluation.

At the end of the quarter:

  • Reflect on your course data. What do your gradebook and course evaluations indicate about what worked well and what didn’t work so well? What can you do to improve students’ performance?
  • Connect with a CTL instructional consultant to brainstorm ways to redesign assignments or improve your teaching practice.
  • Dig into the scholarship of teaching and learning to find ideas for how others have improved their teaching practice in a certain area.