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Now that it’s officially winter break, it’s time to reflect on the past semester and consider what changes you want to make going into the new year. This task can really help improve your teaching practices, along with other elements of your academic life. In today’s post, I go over three teaching reflection activities that you can use to improve your teaching. Each approach is very different from the next, so you can do all three, or just your favorite of the bunch. As teachers, we often ask students to reflect on what they’ve learned in our classrooms. It’s time for us to reflect on our own classroom experiences, as well.As teachers, we often ask students to reflect on what they've learned in our classrooms. It's time for us to reflect on our own classroom experiences, as well. #edutwitter Click To Tweet
Activity 1: Answer a Series of Reflection Questions
If you want to take a really deep, nuanced dive into reflecting on your semester, then answering a series of reflection questions is a great way to approach improving your teaching style and practices. I have a whole blog post related to this style of reflection, and it includes a slideshow of 23 teaching reflection questions. [If you click the link, the older post will appear on a new tab. So, you can easily go through that activity, then come back over here and read about my other two suggested ways of reflecting on the semester. Or, you can keep reading here first, and see which approach you want to start with.]
If you’re part of the Ever Educating community and have access to our resource library, I have a PDF version of this slideshow ready for you to download. If you’re not a member yet, you can sign up here. You’ll get access to my resource library and will receive a short email newsletter when each new blog post goes live.
Do you like the idea of answering reflection questions, but feel that 23 questions is a bit too much to handle right now? Here’s a video where I go over my top 7 questions from that full list.
I’d love to know which question is your favorite. Share your answer in the comments section below!
Activity 2: A Reflection Matrix
For this activity, you can actually theme the matrix using different elements of your life. For example, academic writing, healthy lifestyle, relationships, etc. This post is all about teaching, though, so I’ll focus on that theme as my example. I suggest filling out a matrix for each course you taught this semester. Here’re the matrix categories that I’d use for the reflection:
What does each section title mean?
- Repeat: These are activities that you believe you should use again the next time you teach this course
- Remove: These are activities that you don’t think should be used again in a future version of this course
- Missing: These are activities that you didn’t do this semester that you think you should include next time you teach the course
- Experiment: These are out-of-the-box ideas you have that you want to try out next time you teach the course
This simple matrix shouldn’t take much time to fill out, and you can easily draw it on a piece of paper if you don’t want to go through the trouble of downloading and printing it. You could also draw the matrix and use different categories that make more sense for your experiences. These four categories are just the ones that I find most helpful.
Activity 3: Annotate Your Major Course Materials
This teaching reflection activity involves a 5 step process for each course you’ve taught this past semester. I have a PDF version of this activity in our resource library, as well, in case you want a more convenient version that you can take on-the-go. [Remember, you can access the library by signing up here.] Below, I summarize this activity into three easy steps.
For this activity, collect the following materials from each course you taught this semester: syllabus, schedule, major assignment sheets, rubrics (if you use them, which I don’t). You can print them out, or just open PDF copies of them on your computer or tablet.
What do you do with these materials?
- Annotate each document for one of your courses. When annotating, consider what changes you want to make, what elements you definitely want to keep using, what aspects you think need to be made clearer to your students, how your schedule pace worked or didn’t work, where you want to tweak your assignments to make them better for your students and yourself, etc.
- After you’ve annotated all your documents, summarize your notes in one document. By doing this step, you insure you can easily reread the important points of your reflection whenever you’re due to teach a version of this course again.
- Repeat this process for each course you taught. Make sure you save your notes in an easy to find file. If you’re filing system needs some help, here’s my process for organizing digital files.
This activity makes use of documents you already have, so it doesn’t involve as much critical thinking as the other two activities. So if you’re too tired at this point in the year to invest too much time in reflecting on your teaching experience this past semester, this activity might be the best choice for you.
These three teaching reflection activities require different amounts of time to complete and involve really different reflection processes. If you like journaling, I suggest activity number one. If you’re a visual person, activity two is for you. And if you prefer taking a more concrete approach to reflecting, activity three is likely calling your name. I hope these activities are useful to you. And I’d love to know which approach you plan on taking. Let me know in the comments section!
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