by Christopher Grabau, Instructional Developer, Reinert Center
Now that the semester is underway, it may be difficult to find space to reflect on teaching. Below are three simple suggestions you may want to consider incorporating into practice this year. Each suggestion offers space for self-reflection but also models research-supported best practices for teaching. If you would like to discuss ways to better incorporate reflective practice into your work, please feel free to schedule a confidential consultation with the Reinert Center at any time.
Reflective Prompts on Teaching
Designed as a reflection exercise for workshop participants, this one-page series of prompts can serve as a personal reflection exercise for instructors at any point during the semester. The instructional strategies offer instructors ways they may motivate student learning through inclusive instructional best practices.
Journaling a few details about teaching offers an excellent opportunity to find areas of growth or improvement. Journaling is especially useful when instructors are teaching similar courses for a long period of time. Consider scheduling 5-10 minutes after class to write about general thoughts on the day; what activities went well today; what you may have done differently or how you may modify instruction in the future. Your notes can be bullet points or a full narrative. You can journal using a traditional paper notebook, an app on your phone, or even an audio journal using your phones’ voice memo app. Regardless of the format you choose, consistency is key.
Metacognitive Learning Assessments
While many instructors use low-stakes quizzes and assessments to evaluate students’ prior knowledge and learning, they may also provide useful information on teaching practices, course design, and instructional approaches. Ask students to offer feedback on assignments; “what is best supporting their learning of the course material;” or “what suggestions might they offer that will best support their learning.” Gathering instructional feedback is an excellent metacognitive tool to help students build a deeper relationship with learning.
The key to gathering student responses is what you do with the information. Be sure to respond to student feedback quickly and deliberately. Provide a brief summary of student responses and ways you will address their comments during future courses.
Incidentally, the Reinert Center offers a similar assessment. Our Small-Group Instructional Feedback Sessions (SGIFs) at around the mid-semester. SGIFs are short focus groups with students, initiated by the request of a faculty member or instructor. The anonymous responses generated from the session offer valuable insights into how students experience courses.
Keeping Track of Your Course When Sick
The spread of the Omicron variant offers an important moment to consider how to prepare for when instructors get sick. Preparing in advance can minimize disruption, relieve stress (for both instructor and student), and offer calm consistency.
Designing for Consistency
Consider designing your course using a simple, efficient, and centralized structure. One example is the satellite model for course design. Use Canvas to post course materials and to communicate with students. Also, plan to deliver course materials on a regular (and manageable) schedule.
Centralize Communication using Canvas Announcements
Consider delivering all course correspondence with consistency. Use a centralized place to deliver information about your course. For example, Canvas Announcements are a great way to keep students up to date. At the start of the semester, consider walking through in-class how Announcements may be used throughout the semester.
Acknowledge the hard times
Ecological systems theory identifies how the changes and continuities over time impact and influence growth and development. No doubt our current setting has created an enormous shift in how students relate to learning. Reflect on some of the conditions that may inhibit student learning right now. Some students may be recovering from illness, caring for someone ill, or maybe dealing with real-world consequences associated with the pandemic. Communicating awareness of these challenges and how you intend to adjust can be a great expression of empathy and care that benefits all students.
Gambill, S., (2020, July 20). A Model for Pandemic Era Course Design [Web blog post]. Retrieved
Canvas Community Instructor’s Guide: https://ask.slu.edu/TDClient/30/Portal/KB/ArticleDet?ID=198
Neal, J. W., & Neal, Z. P. (2013). Nested or networked? Future directions for ecological systems
theory. Social development, 22(4), 722-737