Feed on

With the semester ending and only a handful of papers and tests lefts to be graded it is easy to lose sight of what has happened this semester in favor of refocusing on the upcoming holidays and all of the classes you will be responsible for next semester. But before you open the eggnog and start writing next semester’s syllabi there are many good reasons to spend time reflecting on the classes you have just completed. As we examine a few of these reasons it is helpful to remember that reflection can encourage deeper thought and can allow for honest self-critiquing rather than an unhelpful, un-descriptive evaluation, i.e. “things went fine this semester”.

    • Self-Evaluations: As mentioned in a previous blog post (Write your own Evaluations), one of the best ways to improve your teaching is by writing your own evaluations of the course. Especially at the end of a semester, by revisiting your original learning goals, re-examining your mid-semester feedback, and reviewing your good and bad teaching moments throughout the class, you can gain greater insight into what techniques worked well and why, which will prove helpful when you start working on the next iteration of the class.
    • Write it Down: Maryellen Weimer at Faculty Focus wrote a short blog which highly encouraged writing down your reflections. Her reasoning is that by fixing words and thoughts on paper (or hard disk) they can be used weeks or months in the future when memory would have started to fade. The process of writing down internal thoughts can also be helpful to crystallize otherwise amorphous musings.
    • Higher Levels of Learning: Reflection is not just helpful for you, but also for your students. Now if it is too late for this semester, save this tip for the future, but incorporating reflection activities into the last few class periods of a semester can help students reach higher level of learning. There are a number of practical ideas provided in the blog post, Teaching Higher Levels of Learning at the End of the Semester. One of my favorites is having the current students write a letter to future students about what topics to focus on and how best to learn the material. It encourages them to think not only about the material, but also requires them to examine their own study habits and synthesize ideas for helping others learn.

While reflection is something that is best used regularly and not just at the end of a semester, the above suggestions and references will provide a good starting place as you wrap up this semester.

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