What’s in your reflection toolkit?

This is the 5th post in a regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching to prompt you to reflect on your learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Cross-posted from Teche. Original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

There’s one tool that Stephen Brookfield still uses regularly 25 years after the first edition of Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher: the Critical Incident Questionnaire. The CIQ invites anonymous feedback from students in response to five questions:

  • At what moment in class did you feel most engaged with what was happening?
  • At what moment in class were you most distanced from what was happening?
  • What action that anyone (teacher or student) took did you find most affirming or helpful?
  • What action that anyone took did you find most puzzling or confusing?
  • What about the class surprised you the most? (This could be about your own reactions to what went on, something that someone did, or anything else that occurs).

The CIQ is included in a comprehensive scholarly practice guide written by Marina Harvey, Kate Lloyd, Kath McLachlan, Anne-Louise Semple and Greg Walkerden for AdvanceHE. The short evidence-based activities are designed to support reflective practice for student learning. I highly recommend this as the go-to resource on reflection for learning.

The brief of Over a Cuppa is to focus on your practice as a teacher, rather than your students’ reflections for learning. With this in mind, we will revisit many of Harvey and colleagues’ ideas in future posts (storytelling, feeling, listening, exploring, dreaming). Of course, many practices apply to students and teachers, such as:

Give your brain a break: Instead of checking email between classes, spend some time watching out the window or mindfully walking with senses open to notice sights, sounds, feelings, and smells.

Here are two other tools I regularly recommend and have revisited many times (free but login required):

  • Teaching Perspectives Inventory – a 45-item instrument that explores your orientation to teaching.
  • ImaginePhD – designed for humanities and social sciences, three assessment tools – Interests, Skills and Values – offer an excellent tool for reflection.

Wishing you many happy reflections.

Over a cuppa

This is the 4th post in a regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching to prompt you to reflect on your learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa. Original artwork by Fidel Fernando.

On my bookshelf is the foundational text Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher (2nd edition) by Stephen D Brookfield, which shares a wealth of practical tools and examples. In a recent interview, Brookfield reflected on 50 (!) years of teaching in higher education:

I began my career feeling as if my responsibility was completely to decentre my own authority and almost remove myself from the classroom … and just let the students get on with it … I was very interested in self-directed learning for a while … As I got a little bit more experienced, I realised that, well, your body is always of significance in the class, you always do have some power, the question is: is that being exercised responsibly and supportively and authoritatively?

… I’m like everyone, I’m in a process of constant evolution.

You may be familiar with Brookfield’s four lenses: “students’ eyes, colleagues’ perceptions, theory, and personal experience” (2017, p. vii). Inspired by a post from the Teche archives (thanks to Lilia Mantai) here are ways of looking through these lenses:

  • the autobiographical lens: write a teaching philosophy, collate a portfolio, watch your lecture recordings or try blogging for reflective learning;
  • your students’ eyes: revisit evaluations, gather informal feedback in a minute paper;
  • your colleagues’ experiences: talk about teaching, join a community of practice, undertake peer review;
  • the theoretical lens: read literature, participate in professional development, sign up for the MOOC on Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching.

Future posts will share other models for reflective practice such as Hatton and Smith’s four levels of reflection, Gibbs’ reflective cycle, the 4R framework and more. We’ll travel deeper to explore Mary Ryan’s work on reflexivity and Marina Harvey’s ecology of reflection. As promised, the posts will include practical resources as well.

Brookfield, S. D. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher 2nd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. D., Rudolph, J. and Zhiwei, E. Y. (2019) The power of critical thinking in learning and teaching. An interview with Professor Stephen D. Brookfield. Journal of Applied Learning and Teaching, 2(2), 76-90.

What’s nourishing you right now?

This is a short post. Blog writing has been slow. It’s not that there are no words — I have 56 draft posts in all stages of nearly-done to mostly-undone. Perhaps words are insufficient right now.

So, what’s nourishing you? What helps? What keeps you feeling alive? I have previously posted about holding on to holiday feelings, but we are now well and truly back at work and school. The homework has started.

Here are some things that are working for me:

  • A return of students to campus. Here in Australia, there is very little community transmission of COVID-19, and we haven’t seen this many students in one place since the final semester of 2019. Students change the energy of a campus. It is uplifting.
  • Co-leading the MOOC Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching with Marina Harvey. It is still open for enrolments, and has had participants from 106 countries around the world. I am particularly enjoying discussions on planning to teach and icebreaker activities.
  • Meeting colleagues on campus for face-to-face meetings and coffee. (With the opening of a new central hub, we have new places to try!) And, people, it is wonderful to see you fully embodied.
  • Taking a walk every day. Here are some photographs my son and I took of different barks on the way to school. Yes, we walk past many trees!

If it is not bark, I ask again: what is nourishing you right now?