Questions for Reflective Essays on Teaching

You may wish to consider some of the following issues as you think about writing a reflective essay on your teaching. We have grouped these questions into three subgroups: questions about your discipline and your research, questions about your student learning objectives, and questions about your teaching. These questions are not a template designed to produce a formulaic reflective essay. Select the ones which most effectively stimulate your thinking about your teaching, transform or adopt these questions, or create your own questions. Finally, while reflective essays should address the broad teaching issues which are fundamental to your teaching, you might also consider concentrating upon a single course.

Discipline and Research

  1. Think about your discipline as a lens or a window onto a given body of material, ideas, or texts. What problem, issue, or question first animated the construction of that lens? Do those same issues continue to animate it today? Think about the historical origins of your discipline, and its evolution as a field of study.
  2. What first captured your interest in your discipline? What now engages your attention about that discipline (i.e., what is your current research)? Think about the origins of your entry into your field of study, and about the transformations which your thought has undergone to lead you to your present interests.
  3. Under what broad problem, issue, or question would you subsume your current or most recent research projects and interests? How might that same problem, issue, or question have some impact on the lives, interests, or futures of your students? What kinds of texts or course materials might help you to demonstrate the relationship of your work and your discipline to your students?

Student Learning

  1. What important skills, abilities, theories or ideas will your discipline help students to develop or obtain? How will those skills or that knowledge help your students solve problems they may encounter, resolve difficult issues or choices with which they are confronted, or appreciate important--and perhaps otherwise neglected--dimensions of their lives and minds?
  2. How--if at all--do you communicate the value of your disciplinary lens, and the kind of research you pursue, to your students?
  3. What do you want your students to be able to do as a result of taking a course with you? Recall? Synthesize? Analyze? Interpret? Apply? Think both across all of your courses and within individual courses.
  4. What abstract reasoning skills will your students need to accomplish these objectives?
  5. How will you and your students best understand the nature of their learning, its progress, the obstacles it faces.

Teaching Practices and Reflections

  1. How do you communicate to your students what you expect them to know and do as a result of having taken your course?
  2. What teaching strategies do you use in the classroom--i.e., discussion, lecture, case studies, etc.--in order to foster the learning goals you have set for your students? How do you teach your students the abstract reasoning skills necessary for the learning you want them to do?
  3. How do your course materials, assignments, and exams contribute to fostering student learning?
  4. How do you measure student learning in your courses? How do you measure your own progress in helping students achieve the learning objectives you have set for them?
  5. How do you know whether your efforts to foster student learning have helped or hurt? Stimulated unintended, and perhaps undesirable, results? Have students learned despite you?

For a related set of questions you might ask yourself about a single courses, see the Course Analysis Project.