Reflecting on Reflection


Contributed by Jean Otsuki, Associate Director, CTL

I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the New England Faculty Developer Consortium, where I participated in a workshop called “Unsettling Assumptive Worlds Through Shifting Perspectives: Approaches to Reflective Practice in Teaching and Learning,” led by Dana Grossman Leeman, Senior Associate Director at the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching at Tufts University. 

Dr. Leeman’s focus on reflection seemed especially timely in the week following graduation, when the pace on campus noticeably slows. For many instructors, summer offers a chance to pause and reflect on their teaching in the past year and to prepare for the next. Too often, we get caught up in our habitual ways of thinking and doing, and stepping back provides us with an opportunity to move beyond our initial understanding of an experience and to widen our perspective.

Yet, as Dr. Leeman pointed out, we may miss opportunities to grow if our reflections rely exclusively on our own perception of events. How can we not take our conclusions for granted and gain new insight? Dr. Leeman introduced us to several reflection activities, including Stephen Brookfield’s framework for becoming a critically reflective teacher. Brookfield invites instructors to consider their teaching from four vantage points:

  1. Autobiographical: How do I view this situation? Personal recollection or teaching journals provide a base for self-reflection.
  2. Student: How might students view this situation? End-of-semester evaluations or other feedback from students offer a window into the student perspective.
  3. Colleague/Peer: How might my colleague see this situation? Have colleagues observe class or review course materials to offer a peer’s perspective.
  4. Theoretical: What does the literature on teaching say? Explore the scholarship on teaching and learning, being sure to consider sources that challenge your view. 

By intentionally examining their teaching from different perspectives, instructors may deepen their learning. 

How do you use reflection to grow as an educator? And how do you invite students to incorporate different viewpoints into their reflections?