Self-Evaluation and Reflection

Donald Schön’s (1983, 1987) “formative and influential notion of ‘reflective practice’” (Bleakley, 1999, p. 319) has been widely adopted in higher education. The Reflective Practitioner (1983) , challenged practitioners to reconsider the role of technical knowledge versus “artistry” in developing professional excellence. While, Educating the Reflective Practitioner (1987) , proposed that professionals who receive coaching/encouragement to think about what they do while they do it, learn in more profound ways. He coined two types of reflection. Reflection-On-Action is the term used to describe the type of reflection most commonly thought of. It is retrospective; the contemplation of an event after it has taken place. Whereas, Reflection-In-Action is the ability to think on one’s feet, where thinking and doing coincide in moment-to-moment adaptation. It is the sticky moment of indecision that feeds on shifts in circumstance forcing improvisation and risk. It is not learned but rather a surfacing artistry. In this section we will focus more on strategies for Reflection-On-Action, but would also like to encourage you to continually develop your Reflection-In-Action.

General Guidelines

These “Reflection Guidelines” have been adapted from the same named section of the SMED Licensure Handbook from Oregon State University (2014), which is available at the following link: http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/smehandbook/part-time-student-teaching/reflections-guidelines/

Educational philosopher and theorist John Dewey (1933) recognized that it is the reflection on our experiences that leads to learning – not merely the experience itself. We learn from those experiences that we ponder, explore, review, and question. So, it is very important that you not only reflect on your own teaching and what happens in your classrooms, but also reflect on the feedback you receive from your students, peers and mentors when completing any of the strategies outlined in the previous sections of this guide.

Each lesson reflection will have a different focus, depending on the events that unfold. The following are suggestions of questions to consider in your reflections.

Analysis of the Lesson

This is not a step-by-step description of the lesson. Rather you should provide specific evidence to support claims that you are making about the lesson itself:

  • Was the timing appropriate?
  • Did the activities align with your objectives?
  • What were the particular benefits and drawbacks of the methods you chose?
  • Would a different method have been better (i.e., a lab rather than a demonstration)?
  • Did you have enough questions?
  • Were the questions at the appropriate level?
  • What would you do differently and why? Clarify both how you would do this lesson differently but also on changes that you will be making in future lessons.

Evidence of student learning

As you are teaching your lesson, you will be constantly assessing the students’ progress. Your reflection is the opportunity to summarize and analyze what you were considering about students during the lessons. Reflect on the student learning, identifying specific situations and your reaction to those situations. Some examples of questions you might consider are:

  • Do you have specific concerns about their progress?
  • Were the students engaged and motivated?
  • What happened in the lesson that seemed to motivate students to be engaged in the lesson?
  • Which students were actively engaged and which ones had disengaged?
  • What can you do to engage the students more, and to more appropriately meet student needs?
  • What do your students understand as a result of your lesson? What evidence do you have for this claim?

Implications for Future Lessons

This section describes how you use your learning from this lesson to rethink or revise future lessons.

Consider alternatives:

  • Are there other ways you might consider structuring this lesson in the future?
  • Are there other strategies or resources that you could have used to support student learning?
  • What evidence suggested this change?
  • Based on your observations of students’ participation in class and written work;
    What will you do next?
  • Did things come up that will change what you do tomorrow or later in the unit?
  • Are there topics on which you need to spend more (or less) time?
  • What else has today’s lesson made you think about regarding your teaching?

When reflecting on the feedback you receive from students, peers and mentors in either a solicited (via any of the techniques described in the previous sections of this manual for instance) or unsolicited (voluntary observations or comments made by your student, for example) manner, the following questions, from the ISW Handbook for Participants (2006), may help inspire and guide your thoughts:

  • Based upon what the learners said, what would you say was the most important feedback about
    1. the strengths of the lesson?
    2. areas of improvement?
  • What was the biggest surprise?
  • What are the implications for your next lesson/class?
  • What was the most treasured piece of feedback about your strengths as an instructor that you received? Why?
  • How might you build on this or other strengths in your teaching?
  • What feedback still feels rather challenging or puzzling to you?
  • Can you think of other comparable situations in your teaching that might provide insight into this issue?

Challenges

  1. I cannot remember what happened in the class that I taught.
    1. Keep a journal to jot down important points or occurrences that happened in your class, particular thoughts you had or observations you made. Keep this journal with you and write in it directly after you finish teaching your class.
  2. I am rarely assigned to teach the same course twice, so reflecting on how one particular course went doesn’t seem to be useful for future courses that I teach.
    1. Reflecting on your teaching is primarily to inform and develop your teaching skills. The added bonus of improving your course design for a particular class is just that, an added bonus. What you will focus your reflections on will depend on your own personal use and benefit.
  3. I cannot remember what this comment from my observer meant or was in reference to.
    1. You may consider meeting with your observer again to go over the feedback form they completed while they observed you, or simply email them asking them if they recall this comment you cannot understand.
    2. It may be difficult for an observer to recall what they wrote on the form and what it was in reference to, so it is very important to meet with your observer directly after the lesson to talk through all of the feedback. Make notes on the feedback form for yourself so that when you read it later, or when someone else reads it (if you will use it in your teaching dossier for example) everything is clear.
    3. Reflect on the observation and feedback you received directly after the observation takes place and document this reflection for future use.
  4. I do not understand one of the comments made by one of my students on a formative feedback form.
    1. Remember that it is good practice to anonymously review the feedback with your class and make sure that you change anything that is in your control. When reviewing the feedback with your class you can identify the feedback you do not understand and explain to them you are unsure what your students need. This may invoke voluntary discussion from a number of your students who identify with the comment and can give you ideas about what it could mean or they may provide their own personal feedback, which was inspired by this comment they had not thought of. However, chances are you may not get any volunteers to speak as this group discussion is no longer anonymous. In this case, invite anyone to write you an anonymous note explaining this comment or providing further feedback based on this or other comments. Revealing others’ feedback may invoke thoughts in other students that they would like to share. Ask the students to leave the notes in a drop box or your mailbox so that it remains anonymous.

Methods

The following strategies and forms, most of which have been adapted from [10], [7] and [4], can be used to assist you with Reflection-On-Action.

Reflections after Class:

After each class that you teach, take a few moments to reflect on what happened. Consider some of the questions identified in the general guidelines section above. This can be done in whatever manner works best for you, like in your office after class or on your walk/commute home. It will be most effective if it is used to inform the planning for your next class.

Journal Writing:

Consider keeping a journal to record or document your personal reflections on your teaching as well as reflecting on any feedback you receive on your teaching. You may want separate journals for each course/tutorial/lab that you teach and/or separate sections, including separate sections for reflections on feedback. Journals are very personal so organize them in whatever way will work best for you. Also consider your own personal needs when deciding how often to write in your journal. You may choose to write in it every single day or perhaps more sporadic. Just make sure that it becomes a habit to write in your journal when important observations are made, either by you, your students or observers and when important occurrences happen.

Checklist:

Create a checklist for yourself on all aspects of teaching that you would like to emulate. Consider your personal goals in teaching when creating the criteria as well as the particular aspects you would ask an observer to pay attention to. You may decide to create one checklist to serve multiple purposes, i.e. for your own personal evaluation/reflections and to be used by your peer/mentor observers when providing you with feedback on your teaching. You may want to include a comments section on the checklist form for you to reflect on your teaching and/or for your observer to make detailed comments. See the Teaching Observation and Reflection Notes, in the Samples section, for examples of a self-diagnostic checklist as well as a teaching observation form checklist which could be used for these multiple purposes.

Year-end Reflections:

Taking time at the end of your course to reflect on your teaching as well as the design of your course will not only benefit your teaching and the course, but will also save you time and energy planning in the future if you teach this course again. The following questions might help you evaluate and reflect on your teaching:

  • How effective were your skills and methods as an instructor?
  • How well organized/prepared was the course?

Video Feedback:

Ask a peer to attend your class and videotape your teaching. You should introduce your camera operator to the class and explain to them that he/she is here solely to videotape your teaching and the camera will be focused on you the entire time. Explain to them that the video will be solely used to inform your teaching and you will be the only one to view it. However you might want to have your students fill out a video consent form just in case they are caught on film. See the Photography and Video Resources webpage for guidelines and sample forms.

The video is a representation of how you appear to others. You may look and sound different than you expect. Video is helpful because it provides a permanent record that is a detailed account of the lesson. Review your video as soon as possible after the lesson while the lesson is still fresh in your mind. Watch the video in a variety of ways: with no sound so you can concentrate on hand and body movements; on fast forward so you can take note of any repeated movements. However, what you may find “distracting” or “annoying” may be of little concern to your learners. Consider asking for their feedback after viewing your video if there are particular questions you have.