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Teaching Reflections

Through the course of learning to teach, one overcomes many challenges and reforms their ideas on topics. Here are three reflections on where I started and where I am today.

Reflection 1: Grading Assignments

Grading as a whole was very intimidating for me as a new teacher. When I first started, it would take me hours to grade a single assignment. By the time I got the students their assignments back, it had been over two weeks since they turned it in. By the middle of the semester, I had identified a more efficient way to grade; I would look at an individual category and compare all of the papers at once to distribute the grade for that grading criteria. While easier for me to work with - as I could alternate between complex criteria and simple criteria without having to worry about the overall grades for students, it meant that I could not return papers until every paper and every category had been reviewed. It took about a week and a half for me to return the grades for projects around that time.

By the end, I had identified a new technique which hybridized my two previous techniques. This technique involved distilling the complex criteria into simpler criteria for me, and then reading over all of the papers to validate that this simplified criteria would still adequately account for variation in the students work. Using this process, I was able to evaluate all of the papers individually one-after-another while still having a built in curve established in my methodology for grading. This technique, while better, is still not that great. I was able to return the papers within days, but that involved pulling a 20 hour day of grading and corrupting my sleep schedule.

This would be an excellent target for future improvemenmt in my teaching. Grading is a necessary and perpetual task of a teacher, so finding a workflow that works for me is imperative. Doing a retrospective on all of the assignments and the grading criteria therein would be a good place to start. Since I have already graded them, the pressure of the time crunch won’t be interfering, and I will have already read through them a few times. Since the papers will already be familiar to me, I might be able to find a way to effectively simplify the grading criteria. Although the assignments of the future will be different than the ones I have graded, practice on reducing the wordy criteria into a simple variable to check for will be a valuable exercise. Additionally, I may have new insights into practices for grading which extend beyond my current methodology.

Reflection 2: Connecting Course Content Together

As a new teacher, figuring out how to tie all of the course content together was difficult. At the start, I spent most of my time parroting the required readings back to them and not much else. So, when the second major writing project came around, I felt like the students had not absorbed much from my lectures and were simply writing as they did before entering the class. So, for the middle section of the class I tried to make my lectures more engaging. I assumed that the students had read the reading and made them do activities in the morning to prove their competency in the topic before going on to applying the skill in a larger context. Needless to say, this technique was not very effective. Very few of the students were reading the material and felt lost at the start of class.

By the end, I had opted to make the readings more or less optional. Instead of parroting the readings, I was instead looking to the assignment sheets for direction for my lectures. The final writing project mainly consisted of me stepping through all of the steps of the assignment, bringing in bits from the readings as extra sprinkles on top, but mainly trying to make sure that all of the students were getting the steps done. This resulted in a much higher rate of assignments turned in, as although I hadn’t quite given them an overt example, I had led them in a direction parallel to the goal of the assignment.

An effective professor must be able to guide the students, and so working on this further would be important for me. Much like what I am suggesting to myself for the grading improvement, a retrospective is a good path to follow. Having not only attempted to teach the content, but also having looked at what the students produced, I can look for the problem spots in the students’ work and identify those as things that may need to be emphasized in future courses.

Reflection 3: Metareflection on Reflection

As someone who was previously in Engineering, many of the concepts we were teaching were not entirely familiar to me. Reflection is a topic which I had initially struggled with. Reflection in the sciences is very much results focused, while reflection in the humanities takes a broader scope. Writing is not something that can be numerically evaluated, and evaluating the methodology is not clear cut. On top of that, I had to teach my students to reflect. How does one teach something that they themselves do not yet know how to effectively do?

To an extent, I feel that I still have not gotten to a point where I understand reflection. The reflections enclosed herein are my attempt at analyzing myself, but in the absense of clear guidelines I find myself second guessing everything I add. So, if I get to a point where I can distill a reflection into some core components, then I could extend that framework to my students. As of now, though, I simply cannot help them to the extent that I would like.

One way to enhance my understanding of reflection would be to read up literature on reflection.