Why Reflect?

A teacher who doesn’t change and adapt is a teacher who isn’t growing. Every class needs a different approach, and no sub-culture can be taught effectively in the same way. There is no best way to teach. There is, however, a best way to teach for every class.

How can we, as teachers, know if we are being effective in any particular classroom without putting ourselves and our classrooms under the microscope? Self-reflection is a powerful tool in teacher development, and leads to higher personal satisfaction, better teaching and professional development.

How can we reflect?

(The following is a summary of the British Council page on Teacher Reflection. For even more detail on reflective teaching see this article from The Teacher Trainer Journal.)

Reflection often occurs in the following formats:

– Teacher diaries
– Peer observation
– Recording Lessons
– Student Feedback

and serves to answer the questions:

– What are we doing?
– Why are we doing it?
– How effective is it?
– How are the students responding?
– How can we do it better?

This blog will focus on teacher diaries and recorded lessons. The reflections here are largely based on the reflections guide provided by Richards and Lockhart in their book “Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms”, which are detailed below for reference.

Questions about your teaching:

1.     What did you set out to teach?
2.     Were you able to accomplish your goals?
3.     What teaching materials did you use? How effective were they?
4.     What techniques did you use?
5.     What grouping arrangements did you use?
6.     Was your lesson teacher dominated?
7.     What kind of teacher-student interaction occurred?
8.     Did anything amusing or unusual occur?
9.     Did you have any problems with the lesson?
10.  Did you do anything differently than usual?
11.  What kinds of decision making did you employ?
12.  Did you depart from your lesson plan? If so, why?
Did they change make things better or worse?
13.  What was the main accomplishment of the lesson?
14.  Which parts of the lesson were most successful?
15.  Which parts of the lesson were least successful?
16.  Would you teach the lesson differently if you taught it again?
17.  Was your philosophy of teaching reflected in the lesson?
18.  Did you discover anything new about your teaching?
19.  What changes do you think you should make in your teaching?

Questions about the students:

1.     Did you teach all your students today?
2.     Did students contribute actively to the lesson?
3.     How did you respond to different students’ needs
4.     Were students challenged by the lesson?
5.     What do you think students really learned from the lesson?
6.     What did they like most about the lesson?
7.     What didn’t they respond well to?

Questions to ask yourself as a language teacher:

1.     What is the source of my ideas about language teaching?
2.     Where am I in my professional development?
3.     How am I developing as a language teacher?
4.     What are my strengths as a language teacher?
5.     What are my limitations at present?
6.     Are there any contradictions in my teaching?
7.     How can I improve my language teaching?
8.     How am I helping my students?
9.     What satisfaction does language teaching give me?

Richards, J. and Lockhart, C. Reflective teaching in second language classrooms. Cambridge Language Eduaction. 16-17. 1994. 

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