Reflective teaching involves taking time to assess the effectiveness of your teaching, identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, and make a plan for improvement (Guarnera, 2017). Whereas the research tells us that one of the most important components of teaching involves regularly taking a step back and honestly reassessing the teaching and learning situation, very few faculty members allow themselves to take the time for pedagogical reflection. However, this type of critical reflection is imperative when teaching in new, high-tech learning environments that may introduce unfamiliar pedagogical paradigms (Whiteside & Dikkers, 2010).
Teaching in the new high-tech paradigm most certainly presents a challenge, even for those who have been teaching online for some time. The challenge of online teaching raises two questions: what reflective teaching solutions can be proffered to help with finding success and how can these solutions work to fulfill teaching desires? While there are a number of ways of answering these questions, consider the following two suggestions that can be easily taken and immediately applied to your online teaching.
Suggestion 1: Self-Reflection
The first reflective teaching suggestion is to engage in self-reflection. Reflect on what is working well and what could be improved in your course. Consider ways to improve your course organization, increase student engagement, and incorporate new technology.
To help you achieve your teaching desires, consider keeping a teaching notebook (digital or paper). Use the notebook to record a running list of items you might want to fix or change in your course. Jot down methods and tools you come across in other courses that can be redesigned for your course. If a colleague is doing something you think your students could benefit from, jot it in the notebook.
Suggestion 2: Surveys
Another suggestion is to add a midterm and final survey for your students. A course survey gives students the opportunity to identify areas of the course that are working well and areas that might need changed. Without a course survey, it is difficult to judge the results, successes, and stumbling blocks faced by your students. Feedback from the students is usually helpful in determining the issues and glitches in a course with assignments, instructions, technology, etc. Having students identify course issues by way of a survey will provide you with tangible material on which to reflect. Knowing what to fix, and fixing it, will mean you will not need to be endlessly sending out update Announcements in Canvas every time an issue rears its head in your course.
The questions do not need to be in depth to receive helpful feedback. Consider asking questions like:
- Do you wish there were more or fewer live interactions (e.g., Zoom Meetings) with your class?
- What is the most valuable thing you learned in this course?
- Do you think the course is organized and user friendly, making it easy to find materials and assignments?
- Do you feel the instructor provided sufficient feedback on my assignments?
Making changes in a course can be time consuming. Consider breaking your list of changes down into immediate changes and future wishes. Start by fixing any immediate changes. These might be quick fixes or changes that are required for your course to run smoothly next semester. For example, fix broken links or update out-dated instructional materials. After your immediate changes have been addressed, you can work on your future wishes. This might include revamping an assignment or incorporating a new technology tool. Keep in mind that it is best to wait until the course has ended before implementing changes so as to avoid confusing students.
The two suggestions need to work in concert with one another. While taking your own reflective notes on what to improve is important, you are not going to learn everything you might want to know about how to make your course better without also asking the students for their feedback.
- The Online Course Templates created by the instructional designers at CIRT include sample surveys that can be used in your course.
- View the Canvas Guide for more information on how to create a survey in Canvas.
Guarnera, A. (2017, May 21). Reflective teaching three ways. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/reflective-teaching-three-ways
Whiteside, A. & Dikkers, A. G. (2010, September 22). Transforming Teaching in High-Tech, Collaborative Learning Environments with Critical Reflection. Educause Review. http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/transforming-teaching-high-tech-collaborative-learning-environments-critical-reflection