Critically Reflective Practice at the End of the Semester

Re-entry after an extended break is always difficult, but re-entry after Thanksgiving has always been the hardest for me. Since we only have a week or two in the semester after the Thanksgiving recess, the end-of-term flurry of activity seems to hit me in the face that first Monday back (which is why the post you’re reading now is coming on a Tuesday). It’s more than just getting back on the horse; it’s like trying to jump on the horse while it’s galloping  at full speed and wearing a saddle coated in Crisco.

The struggle is real.

But the end of the semester is also an opportune time for reflecting on what went well, what didn’t, and what might need to be incorporated or re-examined for the Spring. One of the best books I’ve read on teaching is Stephen Brookfield’s Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.  In it, he argues that a vital component of good pedagogical practice is the ability to not only reflect on what we’re doing, but to do so from a critical distance. This allows us to be honest and open about what happened and why when it comes to our courses for the semester. In order to do so, Brookfield says, we can use our own interpretations, but “we need to [also] find some lenses that reflect back to us a stark and differently highlighted picture of who we are and what we do.” 1 These other “lenses” include things like student feedback, assessment and grade data, and further examination of disciplinary scholarship (in particular, scholarship of teaching and learning in our particular fields).  In that spirit, this week’s links are to articles and resources that have spurred my reflections lately, with a lot of food for thought as I start to think about the upcoming semester.

  • This Fall, I taught an online course, and one of the perennial struggles of online teaching is building presence in the course-presence on both my part and that of the students.  Previous online teaching experiences have shown me that creating presence starts with the course design and structure. But this excellent infographic on “How to Humanize Your Online Class” from Cal State-Channel Islands’ Michelle Pacansky-Brock, really drove that point home. This Creative-Commons-licensed visual guide  is going to be right next to the computer the next time I build an online course. (It even has a nice list of references to consult for more information.
  • Building on some of the material from Dr. Cyndi Kernahan’s workshop on implicit bias and race last month, David Gooblar’s recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education is an excellent reminder that, as he puts it in his title, “Yes, you have implicit biases, too.” As he discusses various strategies to mitigate the effects of bias, Gooblar affirms the importance of critically-reflective practice:

Underlying all of those strategies is awareness: You have to be conscious of the existence of implicit biases, and the probability that you yourself may be influenced by them, before you can do anything about the problem […] We may never be completely aware of our own implicit biases. But by assuming that we hold at least some of the pernicious stereotypes that our cultures have handed down to us, we can take steps to counteract them. As faculty members, we have a particular responsibility to work on this […] The first step is to open our eyes and look in the mirror.

As we near the end of the semester, it’s IDEA season-that is, time to administer the IDEA Student Ratings of Instruction in our courses. If you’re new to this process, here’s a post from our archives that goes over the process and provides some suggestions for proctoring the surveys.

Looking for an answer? A particular resource? Want to talk teaching and learning? Come by the CETL or make an appointment for a consultation!

Be sure to check out the CETL Calendar for a complete listing of events and professional development opportunities.


  1. Stephen Brookfield, “Critically Reflective Practice,” Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 18: 4(Fall 1998), 197.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.