Reflecting Forward on Your Semester

Michigan State University (December, 2014). Reflecting Forward on Your Semester via Inside Teaching MSU. Retrieved from http://commons.grd.msu.edu/index.php/2014/12/reflectforwardfall/

“Assessing Your Teaching

In the push to end the semester, it’s tempting to completely disconnect from all that happened in your classes as soon as you submit grades. Now, we certainly hope everyone has a restful break, but also hope you’ll set aside some time to assess your teaching before next semester begins. This assessment is a crucial piece of your overall development as a teacher and can greatly impact your work with students next semester. In our closing blog post for the semester, we want to provide you with some suggestions for reflecting on fall semester: taking stock of where you’ve been with students this semester and using that information to guide your decisions next semester.

Learning From Your Final Assessment

In our opening blog series this semester, we reminded you how important assessment is in teaching. It’s the means with which you gather the necessary info you need on student learning and make evidence-based decisions on where to go next. Now, in ending the semester, you have the focal point of your final assessment to provide evidence out of which to base future teaching decisions. And whether you’re teaching the same course or a completely different one, there’s still much to be gained from this kind of reflection. To help your reflection in connection to your final assessment, we offer the following questions:

Three Questions for Reflecting Forward

1) Did You Meet Your Learning Outcomes?: You hopefully set out work in your course with some specific overall learning outcomes for students. Did students meet them? What evidence do you have in your final assessment? In what areas were they strongest? In what areas did they struggle? In meeting or not meeting your learning outcomes, you have some clear areas of focus and further development. And by connecting back across your outcomes and final assessment, you can take stock of what you believe worked well for teaching and learning and what did not.

2) What Instructional Practices Worked Best?: Think back to the instructional practices and activities connected to the strongest and weakest areas of your final assessment.  Perhaps students struggled most with synthesizing certain elements of your course or analyzing a key text. Or maybe you realized students just weren’t able to adequately back up the claims they made in the final paper as you hoped. What instructional activities did you design in order to support them? By identifying these specific practices and activities, you can begin to address any common patterns or clear areas for future focus.

3) Where Do You Need to Grow Next Semester?: Answering this final question (in light of the previous two above) can send you into next semester with clear teaching goals and areas for your own development. If you’re teaching the same course again, then we’d suggest you start proactively identifying and adjusting areas of your course you know need to work better. If you’re teaching a completely different course, you can still make sure you’re focusing in on similar learning outcomes and/or areas of instructional practice even if the content isn’t the same. For help, in addition to seeking out the assistance of other instructors in your college, we’d encourage you to take advantage of the resources Inside Teaching and the Graduate School provide. We regularly offer resources and opportunities on our blog, as well as via social media and through in-person workshops. If you aren’t already engaged with us across those spaces, perhaps make that part of your development goals for next semester.

We’d like to know: What process do you use to reflect and build on your teaching between semesters? Where do you find the best support for areas you want to improve?:

Reflecting Forward on Your Semester

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