It’s important to pause and take stock of how your learning opportunities have unfolded in the past, what patterns you might see across many experiences, and how this can inform your approach moving forward. By reflecting on how learners either met the learning outcomes or engaged the skills you intended for them to build, you can identify and troubleshoot challenges across the learning opportunities you create.
Holding a mirror up to your own practice as an educator and objectively critiquing your experience is an important first step towards designing a learner-centered environment (Bishop, Caston, and King 2014). This form of reflection is incredibly helpful in analyzing the effectiveness of the learning environments you create. It can also empower and inspire you to iterate and try new approaches, thus leading to an increased sense of self-efficacy when you see the positive effects of the solutions you generated (Noormohammadi 2014).
Further, self-assessing your strengths and weaknesses based on what research shows about how learning works (Ambrose et al. 2010) can illuminate new strategies to meaningfully improve your learners’ experience. Reflectively applying this framework to your work as an educator will lead to deeper, more authentic learning experiences for your students.
- Consider keeping an informal journal on what worked well in one educational experience and what needs further iteration. Consider making this process collaborative: holding regular meetings with your TA or a learner feedback team in order to learn and discuss their perceptions of what is helping learners get the most out of an experience. These low-stakes opportunities for reflection can help you become more iterative and dynamic, leading to a greater impact on the experience of learners involved in your opportunity, not only in the future, but also in the present.
- Brookfield (1995) recommends “four lenses” through which to consider one’s past experience as an educator:
- Your own life: This includes not only considering your own experience, but also thinking of the best teachers you have had in the past and asking yourself “What would they think about how this learning opportunity unfolds? What suggestions would they have for me?”
- Your students: Consider asking yourself: “If someone were to ask my learners about the highs and lows of the experience, what do I think they would say?” This learner-centered perspective taking can help reveal things that might not have occurred to us from our own perspective.
- Your colleagues: Do not hesitate to confer with colleagues about how you run your learning opportunities, and what new ideas they may offer to help you bring new life to it. This can be an incredibly invigorating conversation for both involved, and can form the beginning of a collegial, mutually-supporting relationship and experience of community.
- The literature: There is a great deal of information in scholarly and practical sources out there, written by thoughtful educators like you. Pick up the habits of the “scholarly educator” by checking in on journals in your field about what educational practices people are trying and what they are learning.
One of the most powerful ways that we can support our learners’ learning is by helping them develop their metacognitive skills—such as planning how they will approach a task, reflecting on their performance, and making any needed adjustments to how they will approach similar tasks in the future (Ambrose et al., 2010). Similarly, we can become more effective and efficient educators when we explicitly plan, reflect on, and adjust how we teach (DiPietro & Norman, 2014).
Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. John Wiley & Sons.
Bishop, C. F., Caston, M. I., & King, C. A. (2014). Learner-centered environments: Creating effective strategies based on student attitudes and faculty reflection. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 14(3), 46-63.
Brookfield, S. (1995) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Noormohammadi, S. (2014). Teacher reflection and its relation to teacher efficacy and autonomy. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 98, 1380-1389.