Improving our Teaching Through Critical Reflection

April 4, 2017 | Claudia Stanny

After teaching class or after reading your students’ discussion posts in your online classroom, take time to reflect on how things went, how things are going, and how you and your students are experiencing your class. Brookfield (1995) describes strategies to improve teaching through critical reflection.


Keep a “teaching log” to record your reflections on teaching and track changes you make over time

Brookfield suggests that faculty keep a log or journal and record our “private reactions to and interpretations of” important events in our lives as teachers. A teaching log can help you discover important things about yourself and your teaching (Brookfield, 1995, p. 72).

Maintain the log on a regular basis. Spend about 15 to 20 minutes once a week. Record observations and write a critical reflection on your teaching. Over time, patterns, common themes, recurring problems, and successful strategies will emerge from your reflections. Use these patterns to inform and guide your practice.

Brookfield offers the following prompts to stimulate critical reflection in a teaching log (pp. 73-74):

  1. Describe a moment this week when I felt most connected, engaged, or affirmed as a teacher. Describe a time when I said to myself, “This is what being a teacher is really all about.”
  2.  Describe a moment this week when I felt most discouraged, disengaged, or bored as a teacher. Describe a time when I said to myself, “I’m just going through the motions here.”
  3.  Describe a situation that caused me great anxiety or distress. For example, a situation that we replay in our mind as we are dropping off to sleep or that causes us to say, “I don’t want to go through this again for a while.”
  4.  Describe an event that most took me by surprise. Describe an event that shook me up, caught me off guard, knocked me off my stride, gave me a jolt, or made me unexpectedly happy.
  5.  What would I do differently when teaching if I had the chance to do it again?
  6.  What do I feel most proud about in my teaching activities this week? Why?

Review your reflections at the end of the term. Look for patterns and recurring themes. You may discover a reflection you recorded early in the term that contains an idea for a change you would like to make to a course or a class assignment in the coming term. Your teaching log will remind you of how your teaching evolves and improves from term to term.


Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This tip is based on teaching strategy submitted by Lori Schroeder, Ph.D., Associate Director, Center for Faculty Development, Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, Minnesota, to the Western Kentucky University Teaching Issues Writing Consortium.

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 tmd 4/5/2017