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It’s hard to believe that it’s already May and that the semester is coming to a close. As we are all preparing for the final stretch and, hopefully, preparing for some well-earned relaxation over the break, I want to suggest that we all take this time to reflect on our teaching over this semester, while it’s still fresh in our minds.

In an ideal world, we should all be keeping some type of teaching log in which we routinely write down our post-class thoughts. If you do not currently do this, I highly suggest that you add it to your agenda in the future. Entries do not have to be extensive but should at the very least capture elements of each class period that you found to be effective and at least one thing you might change in the future. In addition to reflecting on your own teaching you should also be periodically eliciting evaluations and class reflections from students. This way you will have a clear snapshot of how that semester progressed and this will help you better prepare for future classes.

Whether you do keep a teaching journal or not, I recommend that you take this final week to reflect upon and synthesize your thoughts about your classes this semester. The week of finals is actually a perfect time to engage in this activity because the class sessions are still fresh in your mind. Ask yourself substantive questions and try and answer them as honestly as possible.

Possible Questions might look something like the following:

  • What was your favorite teaching moment this semester and why? What do you think made this moment so memorable?
  • Were there any particular classes or assignments that you can remember students struggling with? If so, how might you strengthen this specific assignment or lesson plan for the future?
  • Did you attend any teaching workshops or have any conversations with fellow teachers that inspired you to try something new (i.e. a specific piece of technology, a campus resource, a unique grading rubric, etc.)? List these items.

The worst feeling is starting a new semester after having finely tuned your syllabus and lessons plans over the previous few weeks and then suddenly remembering that you had wanted to try that new discussion tool you had heard such good things about the previous semester but had forgotten about over the break. We all forget, especially after a stressful semester of teaching and grading. That’s why it is so important to just get your thoughts out now. That way, you will not have to worry about keeping it all in your head all summer.

Keeping a teaching log and writing a more comprehensive reflection of the semester before the break begins is also a good way to gather material for a teaching portfolio. Participating in these reflective exercises will also help you become a lot more conscious of your unique methods and teaching style.

Resources

An article from Western University in Ontario, Canada on how to build reflection time into the summer months: https://www.uwo.ca/tsc/resources/publications/newsletter/selected_articles/looking_backward_to_move_your_courses_forward.html

A previous blog post of mine that stresses the importance of student evaluations for teaching effectiveness: http://sites.nd.edu/kaneb/2016/02/01/eliciting-student-feedback/

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