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Reflecting on Your Teaching

Why Do I Need to Reflect on My Teaching?

The Importance of Reflection

Constructive alignment encourages a reflective approach to teaching and course design so that we can evolve our practices, design, and assessment to improve clarity and alignment. Embedding reflective practice into teaching is therefore useful in ensuring that you can build strong awareness of your practice and its relative strengths and development opportunities. Building a reflective practice and finding the right information to support it allows you to evolve your teaching and respond in ways that work for your teaching philosophy to changes to higher education and student learning. Teaching is a constantly changing field, and taking a reflective approach ensures that you can move forward in a way that connects your teaching practices to the changing landscape.

Building Ongoing Development in Your Practice

Reflection assists you in developing your practice and evolving as an educator. Your approach to teaching and how you operate within the learning environment can be shaped by intentionally seeking feedback on your practice. Building meaningful opportunities for reflection into your annual cycle can assist with ensuring that you continue to progress in your own development as a teacher. As your practice naturally evolves, it is important to regularly audit and critically reflect on these evolutions so that you can foreground the most successful ones and identify areas to develop further.

After each week during term, jot notes about what did and didn’t work, and what caused students’ anxieties and what drove the questions and concerns that week in class, by email, and over office hours. When the course finishes and you begin thinking about tweaking and redesigning elements of the course, look back on these notes and use them to guide refinements to the course and help you map out what needs to be reorganized, clarified, or adapted throughout the course.

Leaning on the Supports around You

One of the core ways reflection can assist you is that they help you connect with the support around you that can contribute to your journey as an educator. During the process of reflection, we encourage you to find teaching colleagues who have the experience to support you, and engage with teaching and learning colleagues, like educational developers on Laurier's Teaching Excellence and Innovation team, who can support you in continuously developing your practice.

How Can I Reflect on My Teaching?

Asking the Right Questions

The first step in reflecting on your teaching is to define your questions. What is it that you want to explore? What are you unsure about? If you have attempted something innovative or experimental in your teaching, how will you assess its success? Understanding and reflecting the effectiveness of your teaching practice should be carefully considered so that it continues to build towards learning outcomes and critical skill development that are clearly understandable and attainable for students.

Finding the Right Pathway for Information

Once you have defined your questions, consider the appropriate pathways to gain the information that you need to drive your reflection. Who would be the right colleague or connection to help get more information to further your thinking? In some cases it may be colleagues who can give you feedback on a syllabus, share some of their own experiences to give you information around what worked or didn’t work, or to join some of your classes to do an observation and give you direct feedback. In other cases, it may be students who can help your understanding of how they are experiencing your teaching practices, either through the formative approaches defined above (class representatives, surveys, etc.), or through summative approaches like student evaluations of teaching.

Teaching Excellence and Innovation colleagues can assist in connecting you to relevant literature and opportunities to support you through your continuous development. They can observe some of your classes to offer feedback, make connections, and provide experience and guidance to help you cultivate the necessary environment in which to reflect and advance your practice.

Thinking About Teaching as an Evolution of You as an Educator

The integration of reflection into your teaching and course development encourages taking a developmental view of your teaching. It puts an emphasis on teaching as an evolutionary practice that allows you to advance your practice and respond to the ever-changing realities of teaching and learning in ways that reflect your own values, priorities and teaching philosophy. Each class is different, has its own culture and is impacted by size, distance, timing, and other contextual realities, but by reflecting and isolating the most essential factors that develop a thriving teaching and learning environment allows you to weather these contextual conditions more effectively throughout your career.

What Do I Do with My Teaching Reflections?

Developing a Support Structure

Your reflections on your practice shine a light on what is important to you and what development would support you in continuing to meet your teaching-related goals. These supports are the people and processes that assist in getting you the information you need, such as disciplinary or teaching communities working towards similar goals, experienced colleagues who may be able to take a mentorship role in your development, or teaching and learning colleagues who may have the skills and expertise to support you and connect you to relevant literature. Teaching can often feel like an isolating activity and that by using your reflections to guide you, you will be able to establish a community around you to support your development. Connecting with colleagues across the institution and in Teaching Excellence and Innovation are critical steps in developing a support structure that values and reflects on feedback.

Feedback in the Course Redesign Cycle

Your reflections should form the foundation upon which you begin the course redesign process after an iteration of a course. By feeding in all of the information you have gained during the term and combining it with your own reflection on what it means and what is important, you will be able to begin your course redesign in a focussed and relevant place and it will be clearer to know where your energies are best focused.

Reimagining Student Outcomes and Teaching Practices

Within the course redesign process you will apply your reflections to strengthen your course by continuing to focus on your student learning outcomes and their relevance to student learning and needs in the program. Your reflections also assist in refining the relationship between your outcomes, the practices you use to teach students, and the assessment used to measure. Having clear information about the connection of these three core instructional tasks, as addressed in constructive alignment, is essential in ensuring the ongoing validity and relevance of your course and its design.

Thinking about Innovations

Finally, your reflections will assist in ascertaining the relevance and purpose of any innovations you attempt in your teaching. Approaching your teaching with an innovation mindset is a useful way to keep yourself and your students motivated and to respond to the changing high education landscape. Reflecting on your teaching innovations with a depth of information is important in ensuring that you can maximize the benefits they create and minimizes any weaknesses that arise.



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