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How can we reflect individually on our teaching practice?

Individual approaches to reflection

In the previous activity we discussed the importance of your students’ feedback on their online learning. Now let’s take some time to consider how we can reflect on our practice as teachers in the online environment as part of a continuous cycle of improvement.

In Week 1 we introduced FutureLearn’s course development cycle of Planning, Designing, Building, Running and Reviewing, and we’re already planning a course review before we offer this course again. Reflecting on your teaching and making improvements is probably already part of your face to face teaching, and we think it’s useful to adopt reflective practices in the online space too.

Each week we’ve added a step for you to reflect on learning activities you have tried with your students, and we think this is a good habit to get into. Reflecting using a journal or template might feel a little like going back to teacher training, but reviewing and evaluating your online learning activities, particularly if you are using new approaches, will help you to continually improve your online teaching.

One reflective opportunity you all have is to consider teaching and learning from a learner’s perspective - you are all engaged in this right now! In Step 3.3 we asked you about your biggest challenge as a learner on this course, and thinking about your experience can help inform your teaching.

Diana Laurillard, UCL: “Do an online course, one for which you are genuinely interested in learning something… Just getting a few hours experience of what it’s like to be a genuine student in this context is invaluable to you when you come to consider that question ‘what does it take to learn this?’ for your own students.”

Individual reflection on your online teaching

Have you ever planned a face-to-face learning activity where nothing went right? Perhaps the students were disengaged, instructions were misunderstood or at the end of the activity it was clear that most students weren’t able to meet any of your learning outcomes?

It can be difficult to reflect on a disastrous online learning activity and identify what went wrong when you can’t easily judge students’ reactions, particularly when they’re learning asynchronously. In this context reflecting on your online teaching can be even more valuable. It might take time for you to work out exactly what happened and what you could do to improve for next time, but asking yourself simple questions after an activity such as:

  • ‘What went well?’,
  • ‘What didn’t go very well?’, and
  • ‘What would I do differently next time?’

can help identify areas for you to reflect upon and then act on to improve future learning activities. You might already be familiar with David Kolb’s work on experiential learning and the reflective cycle of:

  • Having a concrete experience (in this case teaching an online learning activity), then;
  • Reflecting on that experience (e.g asking yourself the questions above);
  • Generalising what you learned about your teaching practice, and;
  • Applying those insights to improve your future practice.

As educators, we are constantly learning and improving, and reflecting in writing can help translate those reflections into our teaching practice.

Discussion

Perhaps you’ve already had an experience where you’ve planned an online learning activity for your students and it hasn’t worked in the way you planned. If you feel comfortable sharing, tell us about it in the comments, and explain what action you took (or will take) to improve next time.

Or, if you’ve had a successful experience, we’d love to hear your reflections on this too. How will you adapt and apply this successful practice in future online learning activities?

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This article is from the free online course:

How To Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students

FutureLearn

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