Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Teaching Tip: Keeping a Teaching Journal

A semester’s end naturally brings an urge to reflect. Some faculty go so far as to ask students to write about the semester, asking, "Have you reached the learning goals you had at the beginning of the term? What were your highs and lows in the course? What new goals has this course inspired you to set for the future?"

We think this impulse is a good one. It's useful for students to reflect and to take note of their personal growth as a result of your class. And if it is good for the student, why not for the teacher as well? As we prepare for a break and look ahead to the courses we will teach, we might ask ourselves the same sorts of questions we ask our students.

Some traditional advice we think worth passing along is to keep weekly or daily teaching journals. A good starting point for such a journal is to document, as soon as practicable after class, our impressions about the events of a particular meeting. Which activities went well? Which questions bombed? Where were students puzzled or excited? A few tips ago we discussed giving students a "one-minute" paper at the end of a class, asking them to identify one new thing they learned and one question they had. Recording our own immediate impressions at the same time that they record theirs makes good sense to us.

Daily and weekly records can be immediately useful when fine tuning lesson plans or drawing up quizzes and exams. But they are probably most useful months or even years later, when we want to evaluate our own work or when we return to teach the same or a similar course.

We want you to know that we have treasured your replies and the tips you’ve shared with us, and we’d love to hear from you again. And we'd also love to hear how your semester has gone. Drop us a line!

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