According to the Yale University Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, “Through reflective teaching, an instructor habitually examines the strengths and weaknesses of their teaching, with the aim to understand their underlying beliefs about teaching and learning and improve their pedagogy.”  Reflective Teaching  

Reflective teaching implies a systematic process of collecting, recording, and analyzing one’s thoughts and observations about teaching, as well as those of students, and then making changes. What is  a Reflective Practice?

Thus, “a reflective practitioner is someone who actively engages in thinking about teaching with the express intent that reflections about those experiences inform future practice.” What is Reflective Practice?

By collecting information and reflecting on the data about their teaching, instructors can decide whether to introduce changes or leave things are they are. It is important for them to go beyond collecting feedback to developing and implementing insights and then revising teaching methods and goals if necessary. This repeated cycle of data collection, reflection, action, and evaluation becomes an iterative process. When instructors are committed to examining their teaching practices based on their observations and feedback, they engage in a continual improvement process.

Reflective teaching also involves examining one’s underlying beliefs about teaching and learning and their alignment with one’s actual teaching practices. It offers a chance to explore one’s thoughts and opinions about learning and teaching, many of which may have become so deeply ingrained that they are automatic. Therefore, it is useful to write and rewrite a teaching statement describing one’s philosophy of teaching and track how it changes and evolves over time. Reviewing these statements can help an instructor not only clarify their approaches to and experiences of teaching and learning but also reflect on their growth and development as a teacher.

This continual process, involving self-reflection and ongoing learning, is especially important for growth as an inclusive instructor. “Self-reflection includes identifying personal areas of bias or weakness in teaching. One’s beliefs about students, teaching, and learning affect how one practices teaching. Engaging in a reflective practice ensures that beliefs, values, and practices are in alignment through continual growth.” Teaching as Reflective Practice

More specifically, Brookfield (2017) proposed four lenses to use when examining and assessing one’s teaching:​​​​​​​

  1. The autobiographical. What do I see as the successes and challenges of the course? What went well, and what could be improved for next time? If I could do X again, how might I do it differently?
  2. The students’ eyes. What do students have to say about what enhanced their learning and what hindered their learning? What recommendations do students have to help improve the course for next time?
  3. Our colleagues’ experiences. What do my colleagues have to say about what went well for them this semester? What was challenging? If my colleagues are teaching similar courses and/or student populations, what are similarities or differences in our experiences? In our assignments?
  4. Theoretical literature. What are evidence-based strategies for supporting student learning? What does the research have to say about how students learn best in similar courses? What does the research say about how students are experiencing higher education at this moment in time?

Yale University’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning provided the following examples of both self and external teaching assessments:

  1. Reflection Journal: A reflection journal allows instructors to record details of their teaching directly after class and create an ongoing narrative of their teaching. Taking 5 or so minutes after class, the instructor writes thoughts on the day’s lesson. Instructors might reflect on the following questions: What went well? What could I have done differently? How will I modify my instruction in the future?
  2. Teaching Philosophy: Writing a teaching philosophy can be a helpful exercise. In reflecting about teaching. Teaching philosophies ask instructors to articulate their knowledge of teaching and learning with details from the classroom. Philosophies can include teaching habits, best practices, asperations, and pedagogical goals.
  3. Teaching Inventories: A number of inventories have been developed to help instructors assess their teaching approaches. These inventories are often designed to assess use of particular pedagogies and consist of multiple choice questions on a Likert-scale and typically take less than 10 – 15 minutes to complete.
  4. Video-Recorded Teaching Practices: Instructors can video-record themselves while teaching and then watch the video, using an classroom observation protocol  or teaching inventory. Observing oneself can be effective for revealing assumptions about one’s teaching.
  5. Peer or Departmental Observation and Feedback: Instructors can ask a colleague or administrator to observe their classroom using an observation protocol and then give them feedback on their teaching. They can also use one of the teaching inventories available online. These observations are meant to be non-evaluative and promote reflection. They begin with a discussion in which the instructor describes course goals and format as well as any issues or teaching practices that are of primary concern in order to provide a context for the observation and the post-observation conversation. (The CTE is available to conduct such observations.)
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  6. Student Evaluations (Midterm and End-of-Term):  Instructors can obtain feedback from students in the form of midterm feedback and/or end-of-term student evaluations. Because of potential bias, instructors should consider student evaluations as one data source in their instruction and take note of any prevailing themes rather than dwelling on individual items. (See Developing and Implementing Midterm Feedback and Interpreting End of Semester Course Evaluations.)

They also made the following recommendations:

  • Use multiple data sources: Considering teaching from at least two different perspectives can provide a more holistic view of instruction. It is best to compare and review outcome data carefully and reflect on it with a colleague before making changes.
  • Don’t Rush: To keep a teaching log, schedule dedicated time to write entries, ideally soon after class ends, rather than hoping to find a moment throughout the day. Changes in teaching are best made slowly – the usual recommendation is one core change per term.
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  • Find a friend: Find a colleague or two to meet with to discuss teaching techniques. This may include a faculty member who teaches the same or similar course or any trusted colleague or administrator. It may also include more than one colleague to form a group that meets regularly to discuss teaching-related issues.

Once an instructor had gathered some information about what goes on in a class, the next step involves reflecting on the data.  According to the University of Manitoba Centre for Advancement of Teaching and Learning, these are some options for what to do next:

  • Think: Through your observation and consultation, you may have noticed patterns occurring in your teaching or things about your teaching that you were previously unaware of. Your students’ feedback may surprise you or confirm what you have already suspected. Ideas for changes to try out may begin to form as you study the data you have collected from various sources.
  • Talk: By talking about what you have discovered – to a supportive colleague or even a friend – you may be able to come up with some ideas for how to do things differently.
    You can meet to discuss issues of concern with colleagues who also wish to develop their teaching.
  • Read: You may decide that you need to find out more about a certain area. There is an extensive literature on developments in pedagogy. The CTE has information on selected topics, with lists of resources.

The Temple University Center for the Advancement of Teaching suggests that a faculty member  ask themselves these questions to guide their reflection on their teaching:
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  • Design of instruction: Have you clearly defined the learning goals you have for your course? Do the assessments in your course measure the goals you have for student learning outcomes? Do the activities you facilitate (lectures, discussions, readings) create experiences for students to reach those goals?
  • Course management: Did your schedule of readings, activities, and assignments work well? For instance, do all of your assignments fall at the same time, or are they evenly spaced out? How do you organize assignment deadlines and manage grading?
  • Knowledge of subject matter: Is there new scholarship in your field that you would like to explore and perhaps address in future iterations of your course?
  • Teacher–Student interactions: What are the different ways you interact with students? Are you “the sage on the stage,” a facilitator of learning, or something else…? How do you relate to students during office hours and via email?

Sources

Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher
Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher (2nd ed.). Jossey Bass.

Reflective Teaching
Yale University Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

Reflective Teaching Examples
Yale University Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

The Reflective Teacher
Temple University Center for Advancement of Teaching

Four Approaches to Reflective Teaching
University of California/Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning

2019 Year of Reflective Teaching
University of California/Davis Center for Educational Effectiveness

Reflective Teaching
University of California/Irvine Center for Advancement of Teaching Excellence

Reflective Teaching
University of Manitoba

Teaching as Reflective Practice
Montclair State University Office for Faculty Advancement

Reflective Teaching
University of Illinois/Chicago Resources

Teaching Statements
Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

Teaching Philosophies
Faculty Focus

Additional Resources

Creating Your Teaching Reflection Plan
The Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence & Faculty Success site provides information on creating a Teaching Reflection Plan, including reflections to consider and information to collect during the semester/term.

Practicing Reflective Teaching
Instruction in Libraries and information Centers provides access to a chapter on practicing reflective teaching that includes a model of reflection as a four-step process, specific techniques for reflecting on teaching, guidance for writing teaching statements, and possibilities for professional development regarding teaching.

Starting a Reflective Practice
University of Rhode Island Office of Advancement of Teaching and Learning site provides additional information on these aspects of reflective teaching practice: (a) benefits of reflective teaching and learning; (b) getting started with reflective practice; (c) formulating a teaching philosophy; and (d) resources about teaching.

Philosophy and Statements
University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning & Teaching lists resources from a range of institutions on writing a teaching philosophy statement.