Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reflecting on my teaching

I haven't done much 'real teaching' this year. Most of my work has been administration and clinical supervision. So I am very pleased to have been able to develop a course for postgraduate midwives around reflective practice. It starts next Monday and runs for seven weeks.

Open reflection
A number of things have cropped up in the last few days that have made me think about how I am going to reflect on this course and my role in it.

The first thing was a discussion that has been going on in the blog of my CEO, Phil Ker. We've been talking about how we can be more effective teachers, and how we can seek feedback and integrate that into our teaching practice. I do not like receiving anonymous feedback, especially if it is not constructive. I would rather have an open discussion about my practice. But I cannot expect to encourage that sort of dialogue without upholding my end of the bargain ie I need to be open about my own reflective processes.

In the same conversation on Phil's blog, Bronwyn Hegarty called for evidence of reflective practice in teachers' ePortfolios. This could be used for performance review as well as sharing information, ideas and impressions with colleagues.

I have started to put this sort of reflective evidence in my ePortfolio, but it's been more about non-teaching activities. I have already written a little about how I have developed this course on this blog, so it makes sense that I continue to reflect here on my progress once the course is up and running. Jeffrey Keefer is doing a similar thing on his blog: Silence and Voice. He starts teaching an online course in the next couple of days. His final checklist of things to do has been a great reminder/resource for me - this confirms how open reflection in a blog not only benefits the blogger but also the reader.

When to do the open reflection?
This question has arisen on a blog that I have recently read - I am very sorry but I cannot find the original source. The teacher said she was happy to blog her reflections, but wasn't sure she wanted to do it before the end of the course.

I can understand that being openly reflective about your teaching as it transpires can make you feel vulnerable in the classroom. But on the other hand, continuous, contemporaneous reflection and feedback can help you make improvements or validate your methods as and when the course progresses.

I acknowledge that my context is different from that of a school teacher. And I am not even sure how I feel about my interactions with my undergraduate students compared to the postgraduate students. I have this notion that postgraduate students are more likely to appreciate my openness because they'll have a greater sense of the big midwifery picture. But I suspect I am very wrong in thinking this. What do you think?

Walking the talk
It makes no sense at all to be 'teaching' a course about reflective practice and asking students for their reflections, if I am not prepared to model reflective practice myself. So I am going to take this opportunity to really think about how I teach, and encourage student feedback as we go along.

If you are a teacher, how do you reflect on your teaching practice? Is it something you do with your students? If you are a student, how do you feel about reading your teachers' reflections in a forum such as a blog?

Image: 'asl class' Trevor D.

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