Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFE)

Reflective Teaching

Why reflective teaching?

"The best teaching is critically reflective - constant scrutiny of assumptions about teaching and conditions that foster learning." Stephen Brookfield

How do instructors’ own identities affect their beliefs about teaching and their actions in the classroom? By performing the work of reflection, instructors can cultivate self-awareness and pursue new and different strategies that will better include students in their classrooms. Instructors can commit to teaching as an iterative process that models deep, critical thought for students. (Columbia Guide to Inclusive Teaching, 2017)

Getting started with reflective teaching

Use the four lenses of critical reflection: (1) students’ eyes, (2) colleagues’ perspectives when working together closely as peers, (3) theory, and (4) personal experience to identify and scrutinize the assumptions that shape practice (Brookfield, 1998).

Seeing through students' eyes

  • Use the Critical Incidents Questionnaire at key points in the term 
  • Use backchannels during class to gather students' questions and perceptions 
  • Use Minute Papers to ask what students responded to most or are most confused by 

Gathering colleagues' perspectives 

  • Invite and offer collegial peer visits and feedback 
  • Participate in learning communities 

Applying research & literature

Teachers who use scholarly literature have an advanced vocabulary for teaching practice and gain a more nuanced awareness of their teaching context.  Literature may be related to teaching in your discipline or may explore cognitive or cultural theory.  When reading, these questions can help to make initial sense of the material:  What is most important in the material?  How does this material connect with, contradict, or corroborate other literature, and with your own experiences?  What surprised you?  What new questions do you have? 

Documenting personal experience

  • Create an autobiography as a learner (pdf)
  • Reflecting on classroom occurrences:
    • Description ‐ What happened?
    • Thoughts & Feelings ‐ What were you thinking and feeling?
    • Evaluation ‐ What was good and bad about the experience?
    • Analysis ‐ What sense can you make of the situation?
    • Conclusion ‐ What else could you have done?
    • Action Plan ‐ If it arose again, what would you do?  

Brookfield, S.D. (1998).  Critically reflective practice. J. Continuing Educ. Health Professions 18, 197-205.

Top Five Reflective Teaching Resources