When instructors engage in reflective teaching, they are dedicating time to evaluate their own teaching practice, examine their curricular choices, consider student feedback, and make revisions to improve student belonging and learning. This process requires information gathering, data interpretation, and planning for the future. Reflective teaching involves examining one’s underlying beliefs about teaching and learning and one’s alignment with actual classroom practice before, during and after a course is taught.
When teaching reflectively, instructors think critically about their teaching and look for evidence of effective teaching. This critical analysis can draw on a variety of sources: Brookfield (2017) lays out four crucial sources: “students’ eyes, colleagues’ perceptions, personal experience, and theory and research.” Instructors can use various tools and methods to learn from these sources and reflect on their teaching, ranging from low-key to formal and personal to inter-collegial. For example, reflective teaching may include self-assessment, classroom observations, consideration of student evaluations, or exploration of educational research. Because each semester’s students and their needs are different, reflective teaching is a continual practice that supports effective and student-centered teaching.
Examples of Self-Assessment
Reflection Journals: Instructors might consider capturing a few details of their teaching in a journal to create an ongoing narrative of their teaching across terms and years. Scheduling a dedicated time during the 5 or so minutes after class to write their entries will ensure continual engagement, rather than hoping to find a moment throughout the day. The instructor writes general thoughts about the day’s lesson and might reflect on the following questions: What went well today? What could I have done differently? How will I modify my instruction in the future?
Teaching Inventories: A number of inventories, like the Teaching Practices Inventory (Wieman and Gilbert, 2014), have been developed to help instructors assess and think more broadly about their teaching approaches. Inventories are typically designed to assess the extent to which particular pedagogies are employed (e.g. student- versus teacher-centered practices).
Video-Recorded Teaching Practices: Instructors may request the Poorvu Center to video record their lessons while conducting a classroom observation, or instructors can video record themselves while teaching and use a classroom observation protocol to self-assess their own practices. Some Yale classrooms have video cameras installed for lecture capture, which instructors can then use for their self assessment.
Teaching Portfolio: A more time-intensive practice, the teaching portfolio 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. The Poorvu Center offers an opportunity for faculty new to Yale to complete a teaching intensive and reflective program, the Faculty Teaching Academy, which includes a culminating portfolio. Faculty who complete the program will receive a contribution to their research or professional development budgets. The University of Washington CTL offers best practices for creating a teaching portfolio.
Examples of External Assessment
Student Evaluations (Midterm and End-of-Term): In many courses, instructors obtain feedback from students in the form of mid-semester 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 (Basow, 1995; Watchel, 1998; Huston, 2005; Reid, L. (2010); Basow, S.A. & Martin, J.L. (2012) ). They can seek out other ways to assess their practices to accompany student evaluation data before taking steps to modify instruction. The Poorvu Center offers consultations regarding mid-semester feedback data collected. They will also conduct small group feedback sessions with an instructor’s students to provide non-evaluative, anonymous conversation notes from students in addition to the traditional survey format. If instructors are interested in sustained feedback over time from a student perspective, then they can also participate in the Pedagogical Partners program.
Peer Review of Teaching: Instructors can ask a trusted colleague to observe their classroom and give them feedback on their teaching. Colleagues can agree on an observation protocol or a list of effective teaching principles to focus on from a teaching practices inventory.
Classroom Observations: Any instructor at Yale may request an observation with feedback from a member of the Poorvu Center staff. 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. This initial discussion provides useful context for the observation and the post-observation conversation.
Basow, S.A. (1995). Student evaluations of college professors: When gender matters. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87(4): 656-665.
Basow, S.A. & Martin, J.L. (2012). Bias in student evaluations. In M.E. Kite (Ed.), Effective evaluation of teaching: A guide for faculty and administrators. Society for the Teaching of Psychology.
Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Huston, T. (2005). Report: Empirical Research on the Impact of Race and Gender in the Evaluation of Teaching. Retrieved 3/10/17 from Seattle University, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning website.
Reid, L. (2010). The Role of Perceived Race and Gender in the Evaluation of College Teaching on RateMyProfessors.com. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. 3 (3): 137–152.
Wachtel, H.K. (1998). Student Evaluation of College Teaching Effectiveness: A Brief Review. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 23(2): 191-212.