The Reflective Teacher

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”

—John Dewey

Reflective teachers regularly dedicate time to evaluate their teaching practice. They consider the scope of their pedagogy — from the structure of the course to the classroom community — and reflect on how their specific teaching decisions impact their students’ learning. As they analyze their teaching, they consider how they might approach particular tasks or challenges in the future.

As we conclude the semester, this is the perfect time to reflect on your classes and consider teaching decisions for the spring.

Building a Reflective Practice

Below are useful questions that can guide your reflective process. The questions are organized around the four main components of teaching, as outlined by Dee Fink:

  • 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 outside of class during office hours and via email?

Other opportunities for reflection through the Teaching and Learning Center

All TLC programs are designed to encourage reflective practice in a community of peers, and to orient colleagues toward learning-centered approaches. While many of our programs entail two or three meetings, the Provost’s Teaching Academy (PTA) is the TLC’s most substantive opportunity for reflective practice and development as an educator.

According to Donald Schön, reflective teaching practice is best supported by collaboration and dialogue with peers. He recommends that educators engage in individual and group reflections and take advantage of opportunities to learn from experts and peers.

The PTA offers just such an opportunity. Now in its fifth year and with a cumulative roster of more than 70 members, it is one of the TLC’s signature programs. The PTA brings together a diverse, interdisciplinary group of faculty members and academic administrators who are uniquely knowledgeable about the research on how people learn and best practices, and who serve as mentors in teaching and learning.

Each new cohort makes an impact on the educational culture at Temple University. We invite you to apply for the summer 2014 cohort.

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This post was co-written and edited by our communications extern, Alexa Mantell, Assistant Director Carl S. Moore, and Pamela Barnett, Associate Vice Provost and Director.

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