Reflective Teaching

2019 Year of Reflective Teaching

2019 Year of Reflective Teaching

By: Kem Saichaie, Ph.D., Associate Director, Learning and Teaching Support

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"Make time for reflection." It sounds simple enough, but how often do we stop to make time for reflection on teaching practices? Many instructors do it automatically while in the midst of teaching; however, transforming potentially-passing thoughts into concrete plans for change requires further intention. 


To inspire your own reflective teaching practice, the Center for Educational Effectiveness is promoting 2019 as the Year of Reflective Teaching. Let us support your reflection with a free reflective journal so that you can capture your insights about your teaching. 

If you would like a reflective journal, complete the following form and we will send you one via campus mail.

Below, we address a few of the questions that arise about the merits of engaging in reflecting about teaching. 

What is reflective practice? 

Since the beginning of 20th century (think: John Dewey early), reflection has been acknowledged as important element of effective teaching; it was from that continuing conversation that the term “reflective practitioner” emerged (Schon, 1987). Generally, a reflective practitioner is someone who actively engages in thinking about teaching with the express intent that reflections about those experiences inform future practice. 

What are the benefits of reflection? 

Reflective practice is central to articulating student outcomes, considering new pedagogical perspectives, and engaging learners in a number of learning environments (in-person, hybrid, online). Reflection offers a chance to (re)explore our beliefs about learning and our teaching, many of which have become so deeply-seeded as to become “automatic.” 

Brookfield (2017) suggests there are a number of reasons reflection on teaching can benefit educators, such as: developing a rationale for practice, taking informed actions, keeping instructors engaged in the teaching process, and establishing trust with students. With regard to trust, Brookfield posits that intentionally disclosing the pedagogical decisions you have made during the design of the course/lesson/unit is an opportunity to build trust with students and show them that your plans are made to benefit their learning. In other words: A reflective instructor is more able to communicate the how and why of course design and delivery to students. 

Reflection can also benefit students:: Schraw, Crippin, and Hartley (2006) found that engaging in reflection helped increase students’ critical thinking ability. (More on this topic in February 2019)

Why reflect on paper?

The reflective journals invite instructors to capture ideas with a pen-in-hand. Writing by hand has been demonstrated to stimulate the brain differently than writing on the keyboard. Researchers contend that transforming the spoken word into the written word activates cognitive processes that lead to learning and change. 

Reflection can also benefit students: Mueller & Openheimer (2014) found that college students who hand wrote notes (rather than typing on a laptop) performed better on tests of conceptual knowledge. (More on this topic in February 2019)

How do I get started? 

There are both formal and informal processes. You could simply start by thinking of responses to the following questions:

  • What worked well in my instruction? Who will I share this news with?
  • What needs work? Who can help me think through this? 
  • What will I do differently? How will I know it is working?

For a more structured approach, scholars suggest a three-phased reflective process: Pre-planning, Planning, and Post-Planning (detailed below) 

Phase Description Points of Reflection
Pre-planning Thinking about previous experiences that inform the current teaching goal(s) (successes, lessons learned). 

What assumptions or dispositions do you have about your class?

What do you want learning to look like in your classroom?

Planning Transforming thinking into action by designing (in some cases pilot testing) and implementing a teaching plan.

What strategies will help you accomplish this vision?

What data will you gather to determine the effectiveness of your planning?

Post-planning Reviewing the plans and the data you have to understand the effectiveness of your planning and to inform future plans.

What ideas, patterns, themes emerged from your data?

What would you like to do differently next time?

What is next? 

In 2019, CEE will lead a campaign to promote reflection in teaching and invite members of the UC Davis Teaching Community to share their thoughts on teaching and learning. CEE will also provide tools to help guide reflection and transition thoughts to practice. Upcoming posts and events to support the 2019 Year of Reflective Teaching include the following: 

  • January: Resolutions and Rejuvenation  
  • February: Promoting Reflection in Students
  • March: Ideas to Renew Teaching Practices
  • April-August: Forthcoming


Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological science, 25(6), 1159-1168.

Peters, J. K., & Weisberg, M. (2011). A Teacher's Reflection Book: Exercises, Stories, Invitations. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

Schon, D. A. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Schraw, G., Crippen, K. J., & Hartley, K. (2006). Promoting self-regulation in science education: Metacognition as part of a broader perspective on learning. Research in science education, 36(1-2), 111-139.