Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Kresge Library, Room 430
100 Library Drive
Rochester, Michigan 48309-4479
(location map)
(248) 370-2751
[email protected]

two lightbulbs laying on a mirror

Reflecting on the Semester

Mon Dec 14, 2020 at 07:30 AM

Reflection has always been an important part of learning, and key to getting the most out of our teaching successes and challenges. After semesters of turmoil and drastic changes, reflection is even more important as uncertainty continues through next semester. While end-of-the-term reflection helps us identify what went well and what you would like to change in the future, reflection works best on a regular basis throughout the semester (following each session or unit) when the experience is most recent.

Reflective practice is an aspect of self-assessment of your teaching by critically analyzing what you have done, and why you have done it, in order to help improve and develop your future teaching practice. It is a critical component of a continuous improvement cycle for teaching and learning. Our Reflective Practice Quick Note walks through how to implement reflective practice as a continuous cycle and the many models of reflective practice that achieve different purposes, such as reflecting on the whole course and basis of teaching approach (comprehensive model), reflecting in order to develop scholarship in teaching and learning (SoTL), and reflection for self-evaluation and annual reviews.

The basic model is based on three questions:

  • What went well? Why do you think it went well?

  • What did not go as well as you had hoped?
  • What would you do differently next time? How will you go about making this change?

These three questions are at the core of reflection, but additional questions may further direct your reflection. Stephen Brookfield (1995) offers the Critical Incident Questionnaire to focus reflection on specific classroom moments throughout the course. The questions work for teachers and students, and their original form can be found on Brookfield’s Critical Incident Questionnaire webpage

  • At what moment in class did you feel most engaged with what was
  • happening?
  • At what moment in class were you most distanced from what was happening?
  • What action from someone in the class did you find most affirming or helpful?
  • What action from someone in the class did you find most puzzling or confusing?
  • What about the class surprised you the most? 

How to Engage in Reflective Practice

Self-reflect in a collective mindset. In a notebook, Word doc, audio file or some other format, reflect on a set of questions or prompts most helpful to you. While we tend to reflect on our own, reflection does necessarily have to be only focused on the individual. Universal Design for Learning leader Lillian Nave has noted that reflection can take place in a community context by considering the environment and how learning happened with other people and places. Two of Brookfield’s reflection questions focus on how others influence our learning experiences.

After you complete your self-reflection, meet with a peer more more to discuss and reflect. This could be with one trusted peer or as part of a teaching square with three other instructors. Consider reflecting with peers in your discipline and in other disciplines.

You can also reflect with a mentor to discuss and get feedback from a trusted adviser. Mentors can provide encouragement and enthusiasm.

CETL also offers consultations. After you complete your self-reflection, contact CETL to set up a time to discuss, reflect and get feedback. 

Reflection may not happen in this order, as you may start by reflecting with others and then reflecting on your own. More likely, reflection will continually move among these different groups.

Save and adapt a Google Doc version of this teaching tip.

Related Books in the CETL Library

Bishop-Clark, C. & Dietz-Uhler, B. (2012). Engaging in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing

Blumberg, P. (2014). Assessing and Improving Your Teaching: Strategies and Rubrics for Faculty Growth and Student Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Centra, J. (1993). Reflective Faculty Evaluation: Enhancing Teaching and Determining Faculty Effectiveness. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Kember, D. & Ginns, P. (2012). Evaluating Teaching and Learning: A Practical Handbook for Colleges, Universities, and the Scholarship of Teaching. New York, NY: Routledge

Malthouse, R. & Roffey-Barentsen, J. (2013). Reflective Practice in Education and Training, 2ndEdition. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing

Stevens, D. & Cooper, J. (2009). Journal Keeping: How to Use Reflective Writing for Learning, Teaching, Professional Insight and Positive Change. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing


Nave, L. (2020, December 2). What Just Happened? Student Self-Regulation in Online Courses. Plenary presentation for the ITLC Lilly Online Conference.

Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

About the Author

Judy Ableser is the founding director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University, who retired in May 2022. Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NCView all CETL Weekly Teaching Tips. Follow these and more on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.