The answer, John Zubizarreta suggest, is in the power of the "why" question. Reflection is much more than a description of activities; when prompted by "why" questions, reflection can lead us to deep investigations and (re)assessments of our teaching practices. The result is often real, meaningful, change.
From my own teaching, here are some "why" questions that might serve as entrées into productive reflection:
- Why do I wait until 2 weeks before deadlines to distribute essay prompts to my students? (This is an actual "why" question that I asked myself about a year ago and that directly resulted in a change of practice).
- Why don't I use PowerPoint?
- Why is my attendance policy as lax as it is?
- Why (in some classes) do I give quizzes?
- Why do I write some names, dates, and terms on the board and not others?
- Why do I use images and visuals as infrequently as I do?
The list could go on and on...
What are your "why" questions? The Center for Faculty Development is exploring offering an Academic Portfolio Workshop in May during which participants will engage in self-reflection, share results and ideas, and produce drafts of their portfolios. Generating "why" questions and then exploring answers to them will likely be part of the workshop. Stay tuned for details.
Source: Peter Seldin, Elizabeth Miller, and John Zubizarreta, "Improving College Teaching," workshop presented at the POD Annual Conference, Atlanta, GA, October 2011.