Great teaching doesn't happen in a vacuum. Of course, every teacher goes through observations and reviews from administration, but those only occur periodically. The best teachers know that refining their practice is an ongoing process. A key part of that process is being able to take a step back and consider your own teaching style, strategies, and performance with an objective, critical eye. Here are some of our favorite best-practice tips for effective self-reflection:
Film your own lessons
There are lots of different methods to assess your own teaching performance, and each one will yield different views of what happens in your classroom. For the most unbiased view, regularly take videos of your lessons. Invest in a good camera, or simply look into a basic tripod for your phone. And while watching film of yourself may sound a little painful, it’s a great way to quickly identify changes you want to make in your approach as well as those strategies that you really like. You can also share your videos with colleagues and administrators for their input.
Ask for your students’ opinion
Student surveys are another great way to gather feedback on your teaching. Distribute surveys several times throughout the year, and try to incorporate a mix of scale or number-based rating items along with open response questions to give students a chance to provide more detailed feedback. Paper printouts, white board surveys, and free online surveys are all great options to take advantage of.
Enlist your colleagues
Just because you may not have an official mentoring relationship doesn’t mean you can’t invite colleagues to informally observe a lesson. Think about asking a fellow teacher whose classroom management style you really admire to come give you feedback. And, don’t discount your rookie colleagues—their formal training is still top of mind and they may be able to offer you some great insights and new strategies.
Develop a rubric for reflection
As a teacher, you use rubrics as you evaluate student work to keep the process as uniform and impartial as possible. You should do the same for yourself when reflecting upon your own performance. Create a list of questions (or be ambitious, and create a formal rubric for yourself) to help determine if your lessons and teaching style are meeting your goals, and use it every time you engage in self-reflection. Ask anyone you invite to evaluate your practice to use it as well.
Keep your records
When you keep thorough records of your own evaluations, it’s easy to compare your strategies lesson-to-lesson and year-over-year. It also makes it easy to take a comprehensive look back at how your teaching practice and career have evolved—and that can be pretty rewarding. Consider using digital means to gather your self-evaluation artifacts so you don’t need to organize and transport clunky file folders.
Be open to change
Reflection and self-assessment are too important to dread or procrastinate. If the method(s) you’ve been using feel like torture (and keep getting pushed to the bottom of the priority list because of it), take some time to reflect on your reflection process. What do you hate about it? Are there ways to ease your burden? Is there anyone you can consult with your concerns? Pivoting to different methods is not failure; it’s growth. And that’s the goal, right?
Looking for more tips to grow as an educator? Check out this blog post for Five Best Practices for Personalized Professional Development!