Academic Director’s March Update – Peer Review and Self-Reflection

Improving teaching practice by peer conversations and self-reflection. 

As midterm break is done for another year, this is a good time for reflecting on the progress of your courses. Gathering midpoint feedback from students can offer valuable insights into their perspectives, enabling you to adjust for the rest of the term. The Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) offers sessions and resources to help instructors learn how to effectively collect and evaluate midterm feedback 

Some of the most useful insights do not come from student feedback such as collected for a midpoint review or at the end of the course with student experience of instruction surveys. An excellent source of help is your fellow instructors that can provide advice from their own experience or feedback on strategies for assessment and student engagement. Instructor peer review is periodically conducted both for formative and summative purposes. Even when a peer review is not required, having someone attend your class and provide feedback can be extraordinarily valuable. In my own teaching practice, I learned so many useful techniques from sitting in other instructors’ classes and watching how they approach their pedagogy. Teaching is highly personalized, but there is value in understanding what works or does not work for your own context. Consider sitting in another instructor’s class or inviting others to yours. 

Practicing self-reflection on teaching is a simple yet effective approach to continual improvement. For my classes, I maintain a “class diary” or “class log” that briefly summarizes key points and outcomes of each session.  Before each class, I review the log from the prior year and utilize its key points when preparing. After class delivery, the class log for the current year is updated to reflect any changes or new insights. When teaching a class multiple times, using a log and reflecting after class delivery allows for identifying areas of improvement and remembering good and bad practices. Updating a class log entry takes only a few minutes, saves preparation time for future years, and helps when sharing materials with new instructors teaching the course. 

Whether it is getting help from your peers or your own self-reflection, remember to use these data sources to complement feedback that comes from student surveys. 

Ramon Lawrence 

CTL Academic Director