More than just a simple journal, taking notes after every class can be an essential tool for teachers’ assessment of what works and doesn’t work in student learning. “Reflective teaching,” the name of this technique, is important for learning outcomes and professional development, allowing educators to critically examine and evaluate their teaching practice, identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to better meet the needs of their students. In addition, reflective teaching is the main resource for educators when coming up with new ideas for lessons or getting out of a teaching rut.
Programs like Arkansas State University’s online Master of Science in Education (MSE) in Educational Theory and Practice program helps teachers develop the skills necessary to grow in this area, including growing their abilities to collect and interpret data.
Data and Simplicity in Reflective Teaching
Reflective teaching is most effective when based on data, whether quantitative or qualitative. Aside from journals, teachers can record their lessons on video and create teaching inventories and portfolios to analyze questions such as:
- “What was planned, and what was actually taught?”
- “What did students absorb, and how did they feel during lessons?”
- “How can I improve the curriculum?”
Despite offering several benefits, not many educators find the time to reflect on these questions since “after teaching a full day, grading assignments, providing feedback to students and families, meeting with advisees and colleagues, and then preparing for the next day, it can be a challenge to find the time or head space for reflection,” according to Edutopia. However, lack of time isn’t the only issue preventing teachers from partaking in reflective teaching — many can’t find uncomplicated ways to make this reflection a habit.
Ways to Build and Structure a Reflective Teaching Portfolio
To begin, however, one must always create their own reflective practice. For example, John Kamal from Edutopia argues that jotting down data must be simple and brief and suggests using note-taking apps to answer a few straightforward questions like those mentioned previously. Weekly planners, voice memos and student surveys (using Google Forms, for instance) are some of the author’s tools of choice.
Little by little, educators can build their teaching portfolios which, according to the Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, “invites instructors to integrate the various components of their teaching into a cohesive whole, typically starting with a teaching philosophy or statement, moving through sample syllabi and assignments, and ending with evaluations from colleagues and students. Though less focused on classroom practices, a portfolio is an opportunity to reflect on teaching overall.”
As part of external assessments, teachers can count on mid- and end-of-term student evaluations, classroom observation or peer reviewing. The latter can be more effective when done as a two-way cooperation. Kamal notes that “A teacher can request that a partner deeply observe and reflect on one or two specific areas of their practice…These types of observational notes at varied levels of detail provide a rich data source that can help inform later deep thought.”
The Benefits of Reflective Teaching
Taking the time to reflect on how your work is going can be essential in guiding your students instead of repeatedly trying the same method with poor results. Reflection can also prevent burnout and create a sense of personal achievement since you can see your growth in the data. A-State’s online MSE in Educational Theory and Practice program prepares graduates to apply such methods in their education careers. For example, the Reflective Teaching course explores how analysis of teaching and learning experiences can benefit teachers’ professional development and students’ learning outcomes.