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How Can Instructors Use Formative Feedback to Drive Reflective Teaching?

By Chanel Sutherland

How effective are you as an instructor? Do your lessons reach all of your students? How do your students like to learn? A lot of what happens during teaching is virtually unknown to the instructor. As educators we use reflective teaching to evaluate and improve our abilities in order to produce a better learning process. However, this reflection can be confined by a lack of objectivity that undermines the quality of our process. The question then becomes - how can we practice reflective teaching and meet our students’ learning needs? The answer is through building and maintaining a culture of continuous feedback in the classroom.

Formative student feedback provides a framework for instructors to assess student learning as part of their own reflection. By collecting feedback on an ongoing basis we can explore our own teaching and find areas of improvement that are not readily apparent during critical self-observation. Here are a few ways feedback can help drive your reflective teaching.

Achieve a Deeper Understanding of the Modern Learner: The needs of today’s students are evolving quickly. In the classroom, instructors need to tune in to their students’ learning process in order to accurately assess their own abilities. For example, you may begin a process of reflection in response to an engagement problem in one of your courses, but how can you really tell why students aren't participating? Using a formative feedback tool you can begin to gather real-time feedback that gauges student sentiment from the first day of class to the last. Use the results to complement your reflective practices and find ways to effectively improve your teaching.

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Seek Professional Development Opportunities: Keeping up-to-date with professional development is part of reflective practice, but how do you know what skills you need to improve on as an instructor? Formative feedback will give you greater insight into your teaching quality and assist you in identifying teaching blind spots.  Based on in-class participation rates, you might think you’re a great lecturer while your students think the opposite. Perhaps your students are only engaged during lectures because it’s the only time they feel that you provide good feedback – and not on their assignments. While end-of-term evaluations are important for enhancing your skills for future learners, formative feedback allows you to more accurately reflect and develop while a course is still in progress.

Anticipate Outcomes of Reviews: Reflective teaching allows you to determine what is working and what needs improvement so that efforts can be made to develop professional competencies. When assessment and improvement activities are not carried out directly by the decision-makers within your institution, it is important to have data to back up your efforts. Formative feedback can help you collect information that show improvement goals and outcomes as well as anticipate end-of-term evaluation results. Furthermore, feedback data in conjunction with a reflective teaching portfolio provides a solid base for promotions or tenure applications.

Do you practice reflective teaching? What are some ways student feedback has helped drive your reflective practices? Comment below and let us know.

Chanel M. Sutherland                                                                                                            
Marketing Content Specialist, eXplorance

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