The fall semester has come to an end. I have a few more projects left to grade before I can fully move on to the break. If you’re overwhelmed by all the last-minute semester responsibilities you have, you might find this self-care post helpful. But, once you’re done with your work this semester, I recommend taking some time to go through a teaching reflection process for these past few months. With it being fall semester, the end of the semester coincides with the end of another year. Self-reflection and goal setting tend to be common pastimes during this time of year. For this blog post, I’ve created a Google Slides presentation with a list of questions that can help you end the semester on an introspective note. And, these questions can help provide a foundation for your spring semester lesson planning.
For this blog post, I've created a Google Slides presentation with a list of questions that can help you end the semester on an introspective note. Click To Tweet
A List of Teaching Reflection Questions
If you’re anything like me at this point in the semester, you’re not really interested in reading a long blog post about how to approach reviewing your semester or how I decided on the particular questions in my presentation. You just want to start your semester reflection/review by seeing the questions and deciding which ones you want to answer. So, to keep it brief: I was inspired by a few pins I found on Pinterest (here, here, here), but others are based on the types of questions I ask my students in the course assessments I create for them. I thought it best to include big picture questions, small details questions, and a few questions that look more to the future than the past.
For those of you who don’t like unexpectedly long slideshows, this review includes 16 priority questions along with 7 follow-up questions. If you’re a member of my blog’s email list, you can also download the list as a PDF that you can fill out in your own time.
A Few of My Own Answers
I’ve decided to include some of my own answers to the teaching reflection questions above. Feel free to keep reading, just get straight to your own reflection process, or pin/save this post for later use. I’d love to chat about your own reflections in the comments section below.
What am I most proud of in accomplishing this semester in my teaching life?
I’m proud of how I was able to keep up with my grading throughout the semester. I ensured my students had plenty of time to read and integrate my feedback before each consecutive assignment. As a student, I was always incredibly frustrated when I did not receive feedback before the next (similar) assignment was due. I’m a worrier. When I did not know how an earlier assignment was received by my instructor, I felt that I had to put even more energy into the next just in case my earlier assignment was not up to par. The added stress was (of course) not good for me. It tended to be unnecessary, as well. I’m proud that this wasn’t an issue with my classes this semester (and in past ones, too).
What do I still need to improve in my teaching style or approach?
I need to really work on talking slower. My passion for course material and/or nerves when in front of a group tend to get the best of me. There is always so much I want to discuss with my students about the texts we study, and there seems to never be enough time in one class session. So, I tend to talk pretty fast and move through discussion questions more quickly than I’d like. Next semester, one of my major goals is to work hard at being conscientious of how fast I’m speaking and moving through the material. I tend to talk fast outside of the classroom as well. This goal, then, is something that I plan to work on in all aspects of my life. I’m hoping getting into a meditation routine will help balance out the main way I communicate with the people around me, especially my students.
What major assignments were my students most invested in?
As always, in ENG 170, my group project activity is always the one my students get the most invested in. Every semester, students mention wanting more time for their project. I give them 25-30 minutes to lead a class analysis activity on the text of the day/week. Most go over that time, which is completely fine unless I need a large amount of class time to lecture or to assign my own activity. This assignment involves creating a group description and rationale for their activity, and individual after-activity reflections. It’s always fascinating to read the reasoning behind their activity design and content. I also tend to smile when students reflect on how difficult it was to get their classmates to participate in the class discussion they are leading. My response to those kinds of statements? “Yep, figuring out ways to get students to participate in class discussion is always one of the hardest parts of teaching.”
What major assignments need to be redesigned when I teach this course/material again?
For my ENG 101.10 class, the first unit involved analyzing three social media platforms. We used our Writing Program terms (transfer, antecedent knowledge, CHAT (Cultural-Historical Activity Theory), trajectory, etc.) throughout the unit. My students had to pick a passion or career that they wanted to learn more about throughout the semester. Once they did so, the first unit had them analyzing social media accounts tied to their passion/career. I thought the familiar and short genres would help them get invested in our class activities and discussions. It didn’t go as I’d hoped. [Teaching at 8 a.m. didn’t help, I’m sure.]
Next semester, I’m teaching ENG 101 using a very similar syllabus. [To clarify: ENG 101 involves me teaching 23 students, 2/week. In ENG 101.10, I taught 18 students 2/week (TR), and a MA student “consultant” led small group discussions 2/week (half the students on Monday, the other half on Wednesday.] My students will still pick a passion or career to focus each unit on. But, Unit 1 will require researching blogs rather than Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’m curious to see how this version will go.
What did I say “yes” to this semester that I wish I had said “no” to?
I accept late work in all my classes, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. I deduct half a letter grade every day an assignment is late. Eventually, the student reaches the point where they can still receive partial credit (50 points out of 100) for submitting their work before the semester ends. I received a lot more late work than usual this semester. This caused me to discover a major issue in my policy. Since students turned in their assignments via a submission link on our class LMS website, once the assignment “closed,” they could no longer submit it via the link. Instead, some students emailed me attachments, some students messaged me via our site, and some students did both. Multiple students emailed me asking how to submit the material before they then sent it to me.
I get a lot of email already. This semester made me realize I need to create a policy of how students can turn in late work, rather than saying “yes” to any approach they take. It’s a quick fix that I can make in the assignment links. All I need to do is add a line or two to my late policy on my future syllabi.
What three adjectives do I want describing my next semester?
Engaging. Productive. Balanced.
I really do recommend taking the time to reflect on each semester you teach. As the calendar year also comes to an end, it feels an even more apt time for a teaching reflection activity. Here are a couple other resource you might want to check out if you’d like more ideas for reflecting on the semester/year (here and here). If you’re looking for a digital planner for 2019, you can download one I’ve created here. Or, if you want a digital journal specifically designed with teaching in mind, I’ve created a Teachable course with exactly that tool (along with video tutorials to help you customize it).
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