The top priority as a teacher is to give students the absolute best education to ensure their success. You may study all you can in school and learn all there is to learn about teaching, but you never really know what is best for your students until you are standing in front of them delivering a lesson.
So when it’s just you and your students, how do you know if you are giving them your best? Self-reflection can be an invaluable tool to help you answer this question. Taking the time to reflect on your practice can help you improve as an educator, become more self-aware of your teaching, and better understand your students and their needs.
What is Self-Reflection?
Self-reflection is taking an honest look at your actions and decisions and recognizing how they may have affected you, your work, and the people around you. Self-reflection is thinking about how you handled past events and whether you could have improved or changed the way you acted or engaged.
Learning from past mistakes or recognizing areas of improvement can allow us to make better decisions in the moment. If we are open and honest with ourselves, practicing self-reflection can push us to grow both personally and professionally.
How Can Self-Reflection Improve Your Career as a Teacher?
Teachers have an important job, and if we don’t get it right it’s our students who suffer. With different grade levels, different students with different personalities, and different expectations across schools, there is always room to change and refine your skills as an educator.
Taking the time to reflect on your teaching, your lesson material, and how you engaged with your students can help you recognize areas of improvement. Maybe you realize your students were off-task for most of the lesson because they did not understand the material. Maybe you realize you need to add or change some classroom expectations. Maybe you realize your material wasn’t challenging enough.
You might also recognize some areas of strength. Maybe you felt your lesson went really well and your students made some breakthroughs in their understanding. You might consider sharing your ideas or strategies with a co-worker. Finding things we are good at can boost our self-esteem and increase the love we have for our profession.
Self-reflection also increases self-awareness and our ability to recognize how our words and actions affect those around us. As teachers, it is crucial to use sensitive language, teach with inclusive material, and connect with our students. Being more self-aware of what we say and how we say it can help us make our students feel comfortable and loved.
Reflective practice can help us realize when our lesson materials need to be updated. We want to make sure our teaching aligns with current curriculum and standards. Outdated material might not be relevant or may be confusing for your students.
It’s easy to get so involved in how we teach our lesson, what materials we need, if we are meeting all our objectives, and if we timed everything correctly, and we can sometimes forget to pay attention to our students themselves.
Taking the time to reflect on your practice can help you decide whether your students responded the way they should have and mastered understanding of the material. You can better understand your student’s strengths and their needs going forward. It helps us put our students first and recognize that teaching is not just a job to complete each day. We must do it well and acknowledge that we can always improve.
How do I Self-Reflect?
Self-reflection might be something you naturally do already. But if you’ve never tried it and don’t know where to begin, you might be feeling a little lost. The best way to start a reflective practice is to have some targeted questions to ask yourself. Here are some ideas:
- Was my lesson effective? Why or why not?
- Were my students on task?
- If not, was it because they didn’t understand or because the expectations were not clear?
- Which parts of my lesson could I improve for next time?
- What were my strengths?
- What areas did my students excel in? What areas did they struggle with?
Remember to be kind to yourself and look for strengths along with areas of growth. Be honest with yourself and reflect on what is best for your students.
Activities for Self-Reflection
There are many activities you can try to make self-reflection easier or more effective. Play around with some of these ideas to see what works best for you.
- Record your lessons and watch them back without the stress of being in front of your students. Pay attention to how you react to students, how your students react to you, your pacing, and the effectiveness of your lesson. It can be difficult to monitor your effectiveness in the moment.
- Ask your students to fill out an evaluation form so they can rate you and give you feedback. You can even have a student “observe” your lesson and highlight your strengths and growth areas.
- Keep a journal or take notes each day. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember what you wanted to change or add to a lesson. Write everything down so you have a plan for the next day. Writing down your thoughts and getting them out of your head can also keep you from unnecessary dwelling or stressing over things you want to improve.
- Have a specific time set aside for self-reflection. A great time to reflect on the day might be your commute home, while walking your dog, or maybe writing down your thoughts before you go to bed.
What to do After Self-Reflection
Practicing self-reflection can allow you to recognize and make changes in order to grow as a person and in your profession. But self-reflection is only the first step. What do you do once you’ve taken the time to reflect and have recognized a need for improvement?
Make a plan. Decide how you are going to implement these changes. What strategies can you use to improve tomorrow’s lesson? If your classroom expectations are not clear enough, make some changes and try again the next day.
If your lesson was not effective, try to supplement your material with other resources. Ask your colleagues for help and advice. Make small changes and collect the data to monitor your improvements. And most importantly, continue to practice self-reflection.