Self-reflection is a necessary component to teaching any course. By stepping back after teaching each class and critically reflecting on what elements worked well and what can be improved will provide opportunities for improvement within a given semester and from semester to semester. Keeping a teaching journal is one method I have used, and intend to continue using, to keep a record of what happened in class, and how effective the class was, as determined by various assessment methods, and what changes need to be made, both short and long term.
In addition to self-reflection, collecting feedback from students is paramount. Currently I collect feedback at the mid-term and at the end of the semester and make students aware that they should give feedback whenever they like. Below is a graph that shows student responses at the mid-term (and one end of term) over five semesters of my teaching in General Microbiology Laboratory.
I use this information to touch base with how well students think I’m teaching and how well what I’m doing helps them learn. Additionally I ask open ended questions about how I have helped and what I could do to help the students more, and I ask if there is anything I can do to help students understand and learn the material as well as asking if there is anything THEY can do differently to better understand and learn the material. Given the data from Fall 2014, it looks like my strategies to improve in the last half of the semester seemed to work for this group of students.
Some highlights for some written feedback include answers to the following prompts:
This instructor really helped my by:
- Explaining the material very well and helping me when I was confused
- Creating a relaxed and helpful lab environment
- Being extremely patient when explaining a concept that I didn’t understand
This instructor would be more helpful if they:
- Checked in with each lab bench more frequently
- Could be my TA for every class; she is awesome!
- Could be cloned and TA every section
I then use this information to make changes, as possible, in the current semester and keep these ideas in mind if I teach the course again. For the comments I get for the prompt “This instructor would be more helpful if they…” I collate them into one document and try to figure out if there are any common denominators to this feedback. Those are the first areas I aim to improve. When I get this feedback at the end of semester I add it to my notes for the next iteration of this class. If I get it at the mid-term I try to make the improvement in the last half of the semester.