I know, it’s close to the end, you’re ready for the beach. I get it. This late in the academic year, with finals looming (or, for some of you, finals completed! you people can shut up now), it’s easy to check out and get some well-deserved rest.
But my colleague David Gooblar at Augustana College, blogger for Pedagogy Unbound (featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae career website) suggests that the investment of just a little time at the conclusion of a course can reap serious benefits for your formative assessment and self-improvement as a teacher (as well as for more effective learning outcomes for your future students). This kind of self-reflection is also handy to form a basis for an eventual self-reflection report that may be part of a faculty review in your future.
Following his short piece below are reflection prompts from the self-evaluation form he references.
Best of luck to all of us at the end!
It’s been a long semester. We’ve all worked hard, tried out new things, adapted on the fly, managed to keep our heads above an ocean of work while still being present for our students. We’ve made it through the mid-semester doldrums. Depending on how much grading we’ve got left, we’re now within sight of the end. If you’re anything like me, to say that you’re looking forward to the end is an understatement. Does anyone else visualize entering that last grade, closing your folder of class notes, and then throwing that folder into the sea?
Today I’d like to suggest that you not be so quick to move on from this term, no matter how desperately you long for a summer away from teaching.
I learn a lot every semester: Trying out ideas in the crucible of the classroom is really the only way to improve as a teacher. I always feel better about my pedagogy at the end of the term than I do at the beginning. Curiously, though, these gains don’t always carry over from semester to semester. By the time that next semester rolls around—particularly if it’s the fall term—the lessons I’ve learned have been mostly forgotten. Did that new approach to a familiar text produce the results I’d hoped for? How did that new topic go over with the students? Was the multi-part assignment too much of a headache, or was it worth it? A few months later, it can all get kind of hazy.
Of course, some of you may have better recall than I do. But I think it’s valuable to take note of the semester’s gains and losses while they are still fresh in our minds. I’m suggesting giving yourself a course evaluation at the end of every term.
[details after the jump!]
I don’t think I need to tell you that student evaluations can be useful for your teaching. If you want to develop professionally, if you want to improve from semester to semester, then I bet you’re already reading what your students have to say and looking for constructive information there. Whatever other purposes evaluations may serve, their most important function is as feedback to the instructor.
But the main reason that student evaluations can be valuable for your pedagogy—the students have been in your classroom for months, with first-hand knowledge of how you teach—apply equally to your own perspective. You’ve been in that classroom too, and you should look to benefit as much as possible from the experience.
Without looking too hard, I found this self-evaluation form from the University of California at Irvine Extension. It seems like a good starting point for an end-of-semester summing-up. I’m sure you can find others. But you don’t need to use an actual form, of course. If you spend an hour writing down your reflections on the course’s progress, you’ll thank yourself down the line, when you’re dealing with another semester’s challenges.
So this year, maybe when your students are filling out their evaluation forms, take a little time to evaluate yourself. What worked well? What didn’t? What would you change if you could teach the course over again? What strategy is a good candidate to submit to Pedagogy Unbound? Answering even these few questions will pay dividends well worth that slight delay in getting you to your much-deserved summer break.
The following prompts are adapted from the University of California at Irvine Extension’s faculty self-evaluation form.
1. Comment on what went well during your teaching of this course. Highlight any successful strategies, techniques, activities, etc.
2. Comment on the particular composition of the class (size of the group, level of ability/preparation, amount of participation, etc.) and how that affected your delivery of instruction.
3. Comment on any particular concerns/issues/unexpected difficulties you encountered. Also, note any assistance that would have been helpful.
4. How well did your activities, project, homework, and evaluation methods help your students attain your stated learning objectives? What changes might you make in the future?
5. Did the catalog description for your course accurately describe what you delivered in the classroom? Did the learning objectives presented in your syllabus? If not, what changes do you suggest?