New School Year: Reflecting on the Past

As the weeks passed from grading the last final exam, I have had time to reflect on the semester.  We often ask our students to reflect on their learning experiences and milestones.   This has been found to be an ideal activity for the learner.  “Because learning is so often subconscious, we don’t realize we’ve actually gained new knowledge or understanding until we stop to contemplate a particular activity” (Tap into Learning, 2000, p. 1). Because my online courses are designed in a constructivist framework, many of the activities involve some type of reflection.  However, my face-to-face courses lack this conscious activity of reflection.

Cumulative final exams end up as my only reflective activity.  My students have told me that they can’t believe how much they remember from the beginning of the semester.  I would like them to think about what the learned, not what they don’t know.  I’m not sure how to get them to do this.

As an instructor, reflection is equally important.  Again, I should do more of this.  I end the semester reflecting on things-gone-wrong instead of things-gone-right.   Reflection, as defined by Schon refers to self-awareness of one’s own repertoire of knowledge and skills in combination with present circumstances to form new understandings.  What can I do to make my teaching more effective?  Upon critical reflection over the past few weeks, these are the competencies I want to improve next year.   

1. Guide students to be more self-directed.

2.  Ask for student feedback intermittently throughout the semester using an anonymous survey.

3.  Don’t necessarily “be there” for students 24/7.

4.  Guide students in the critical thinking process which will in turn integrate more reflective activities.

“In an old paradigm of teaching in higher education, knowledge transferred to students by persons who have a PhD in their field of study; students passively accept and learn new facts within a traditional classroom setting.  Unfortunately, this paradigm may not adequately prepare students for the professional workplace where employers value skills and qualities such as emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and therapeutic use of self” (Zimmerman, Hanson, Stube, Jedlicka, and Fox, 2007, p. 1). 

We owe it to students to not only teach them content, but to teach them to become professionals.   We owe it to our profession to reflect after each semester so that we become better facilitators of learning. 


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