Reflective Teaching: When Teaching Also Means Learning

reflective teachingBeing a good teacher is about far more than your understanding of the subject matter than you teach. Unfortunately, this a difficult concept for many individuals looking to get into the teaching profession to grasp. If you want your students to be engaged, to ask the right questions, and to learn in a way that lasts, then you need to be able to look at your own abilities and the way that you connect with your students. By engaging in reflective teaching practices you can look closely at how you manage your classroom, something you can learn more about in this Udemy course, in addition to how you speak with your students, how you present information, and much more. The more you understand what you do in class, the better you will be able to understand why you do it. This can lead to greater enrichment for your students and yourself.

What Is Reflective Teaching And Why Is It Important?  

Reflective teaching is a personal tool that teachers can use to observe and evaluate the way they behave in their classroom. It can be both a private process as well as one that you discuss with colleagues. When you collect information regarding what went on in your classroom and take the time to analyze it from a distance, you can identify more than just what worked and what didn’t. You will be able to look at the underlying principles and beliefs that define the way that you work. This kind of self-awareness is a powerful ally for a teacher, especially when so much of what and how they teach can change in the moment.

Reflective teaching is about more than just summarizing what happened in the classroom. If you spend all your time discussing the events of the lesson, it’s possible to jump to abrupt conclusions about why things happened as they did.

Reflective teaching is a quieter and more systemic approach to looking at what happened. It requires patience, and careful observation of the entire lesson’s experience. Learning how to learn, as this Udemy course details in full, requires intuition and practice.

Keeping a Teaching Journal 

The best and least intrusive way to start the practice of reflective teaching is to keep a ‘teacher diary.’ This is a purely personal action that will allow you to look objectively at what occurred in your lessons, and will force you to look at why things occurred as they did. It’s really important that you set aside time immediately after a lesson, when the experience is still fresh in your mind, to do this. Scribbling reflection notes while you are teaching or while class is going on will hinder the process as opposed to helping it.

When you keep a teacher diary try very hard to look at specifics, but don’t get in the habit of listing them. You most likely have an idea of what worked or did not and it’s better that you honor yourself by writing how you felt about those successes or failures. Identification is the first step in creating great improvement. Much like you may tell your own students, don’t be discouraged if this feels awkward at the start. Journaling takes a level of discipline to get that muscle up to speed. Because you are dealing with your own emotions, try hard not to judge yourself. A complete sense of open honesty will help illuminate what’s lying underneath.

Other Methods For Reflective Teaching 

If you are really struggling with writing a journal or you feel that there is just too much information for you to consider in written form you can ask a colleague to sit in on your lesson. This will require a level of pre-planning on your part, because you do not want to disrupt the classroom. Certainly the presence of another teacher or adult in the room will not go unnoticed. Make sure that you give the person observing you some criteria to look for. Hopefully you’ve already identified some areas you want to adjust through your journaling. Help them help you.

You can also audio or video record your own lessons. This will give you the opportunity to reflect to a greater extent later in the day. They also will highlight how you speak to others, the language you use, and the physical behaviors you engage in while teaching.

If you have a particularly good relationship with your students, then you might consider asking them for feedback. They have the most at stake when it comes to your ability to teach, so it’s important to get their opinions. However, avoid doing this conversationally. Create a questionnaire or a guided diary entry for them, and allow them to submit this information to you anonymously. This will ensure that they are completely honest about their feelings.

 What Comes After You Have Reflected on Your Teaching 

Analyzing your own practices can feel daunting. Change is difficult, especially if you have been teaching for a while. And even if you know a change is needed, how do you know what to change? Again, just like you would council your own students, don’t get discouraged. Be patient and kind to yourself. You are not making any immediate changes; you are merely observing what you do and learning how to grow. Like anything else, it’s a process.

Start by thinking about what you’ve noticed. Look for patterns or elements of your teaching method that took you by surprise. If you acquired student or peer feedback, you may be shocked by the results. Even if you’re faced with criticism, don’t let yourself get defensive. These observations are meant to help you.

Move forward by speaking openly with other teachers about what you’ve learned. If you have identified something you’d like to change then choose a colleague you feel comfortable with and present them with the information you’ve gained. Listen to what they have to say, and consider yourself the student at this point. You are there to learn and not to prove yourself.

You might find, as you progress, that there is an area of knowledge you need to know more about. Perhaps you don’t use a lot of modern equipment and you want to learn how to teach with technology, something that this Udemy course can help you with. If a peer recommends a methodology you hadn’t heard of, take the time to read up on these things so you can use them to your advantage.

Never be afraid to ask for help or advice. Doing this is not a sign of being an underwhelming teacher; in fact it’s quite the opposite. There’s nothing wrong with asking, “How can I do it better?”

Drawing Conclusions From Your Reflection 

As with any paper your students may write, without a conclusion all is for naught. Take everything that you have learned throughout the process and come up with a strategy that will allow you to continue doing the things you’ve done right, as well as to make improvements in areas where you have faltered. Engaging in this process is what makes effective teaching and effective teachers.

Whether you’re teaching in a physical school or working as a teacher online, Udemy offers great courses that can help you master the art of teaching. By taking the time to look at your practices and behaviors as well as study your lessons and their effectiveness through reflective teaching you will be ensuring your own success. A good teacher is one that leads by example, and the best example a student can have is seeing another person strive to learn, improve, and grow.