TUNE IN: APPLE PODCASTS | STITCHER | SPOTIFY
As we wrap up this school year, now is a great time to reflect on your teaching in this year’s classes. I have found that making notes and documenting what worked and what didn’t have helped me cut down my planning time for next year’s classes.
It also prevents me from using resources and materials that completely flopped. And helps me remember what made certain lessons and units resonate with my students.
I’ve also found that reflecting gives me time not only to improve my instruction but also delivery. Like noting that I need to give students a set amount of time after bell work to glue or tape all the handouts. (My students were too busy gluing to pay attention to instruction.) More on creating great classroom routines here.
In this post, we’re going to go over
- How reflecting on teaching at the end of the school year can help save time in planning for next year
- Show you a teaching reflection example from a CTE teacher’s perspective
- Self-reflection questions for teachers that you can use when reflecting on your lessons and teaching
- What to do now that you’ve reflected on the lessons you taught
Reflecting on Teaching at the End of the School Year
Reflecting on your teaching practices throughout the school year can be very powerful. Especially when planning for the next school year.
Ideally, you would be able to reflect each day or at the end of each unit. But, we know you’re busy. Don’t worry, there’s still time.
The key here is that you are reflecting, not revamping. Make notes of what you will be changing in the future. You will do the actual changing before teaching this unit the next time around.
Make sure to reflect even on those courses that you may not be teaching next year. It will be helpful to have those reflections handy for the next time you do teach it. (And we are all too familiar with the possibility of reteaching a course in CTE.)
Right now, use some time while students are taking end-of-course exams to fit in some time to reflect.
If you have difficulty remembering to reflect, habit stack this process onto something you already do. For example, sit down and reflect every time you give a unit exam. Or, after you do the end-of-the-day 10-minute organizing of your room.
As you begin to reflect set a timer and give yourself uninterrupted time to answer questions. You’ll be surprised at how many questions you’ll be able to answer in 10-20 minutes. Try this Pomodoro timer to keep track of time.
Teaching Reflection Example for the CTE Teacher
One of my university professors was great at writing notes on his lesson plans while he was teaching. He was great at modeling for us how we can simplify planning and preparing for the next time around.
Problem is, I don’t have a notebook with my lesson plans. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever printed a hard copy of my lesson plans.
Even if I needed to submit something to my admin (which I was never asked to do), it would have been digital.
Instead, I used Google Docs and Google Sheets to store it all. I have a folder for every school year. Within that school year, I have folders for each class.
When reflecting, see what works best for you. I found that keeping my reflection spreadsheet in the main school-year folder was best. The spreadsheet then had a sheet (or tab) for each course that I was teaching at the time.
This made it easy to reflect on multiple classes within one sitting. I didn’t have to waste time clicking and hunting for other spreadsheets or documents.
In a spreadsheet, I listed the date, unit, and topics covered. These were listed simply like:
“Gallery walk Pt2: Post-its ‘I Like, I Wonder’
Redesign Paper Bridge
Concept Sketching, Topic: 2 things I like”
I would then make note of what worked and what didn’t work. Sometimes I was able to reflect on my lesson after the first period I taught it and make improvements before I taught it in the next class period.
Let’s be real though, that didn’t usually happen.
Self-reflection Questions for Teachers after Teaching Your Lesson
My favorite three questions to ask when observing a class are:
- What should the students be learning today?
- How will they know that they learned “it”?
- How will the teacher know that they learned “it’?
I like using these questions to plan, but they can also be used to reflect on how the lesson went.
If you want to get deeper into your reflection, try using the following questions:
- Was the instructional objective met? How do I know students learned what was intended?
- Were the students productively engaged? How do I know?
- Did I alter my instructional plan as I taught the lesson? Why?
- What additional assistance, support, and/or resources would have further enhanced this lesson?
- If I had the opportunity to teach the lesson again to the same group of students, would I do anything differently? What? Why?
Check out these additional questions for making next year easier.
Now That You’ve Taught a Lesson and Reflection–What’s Next?
You may be limited on time at the end of the school year, but you may have noted some simple fixes that you could do now.
Perhaps you had a spelling error on one of your slides or instructions for an assignment.
You can also view your reflections as a whole and look for any patterns that you may have noticed.
Were there certain topics as a whole that your students had difficulty understanding? Did you keep listing problems with your routines? Were you noticing that it took you too long to do something and you need a better system?
At this point, we’re not going to have you “fix” all those, but it is helpful to take notes. By having these written down, they will be “top of mind” for when an idea comes to you this summer.
You’ll really get into “fixing” and revising as you begin to plan for the next time you teach the unit. Waiting until then will also give you insight into your current students and their needs.
Reflecting on this year’s lessons and units can help improve your teaching practices in the future. Not only will you know what content worked (and didn’t), but also systems and routines.
Make teacher reflection regular and consistent by stacking the practice on a habit you are already doing. Like an end-of-unit assessment or your end-of-day routine.
The power of your reflection comes not only in the regularity but also in the questions that you are asking yourself.
So, while you have some downtime proctoring end-of-course exams, take time to reflect on this year’s courses. You’ll be glad you did when the next school year comes around.