I just finished reading Maryellen Weimer’s excellent post, End of Semester Reflections: Beginning, Endings and Spaces Between, in the Teaching Professor Blog.
She writes, “Previously I would have encouraged everyone to write about the courses that have just ended. What do you think you will remember about them in five years? Are there students you will remember? Others you hope to forget? What were the best and worst moments in those courses? How did your relationship with each class begin, evolve and end? What was new, different and exciting about the content? Did you teach well? Did students learn well? If you could change one thing about your teaching and their learning next semester, what would it be?”
These are great questions, and reflecting on this type of inquiry and thinking deeply about challenges, strategies, solutions, and consequent actions, are all part of ongoing self-reflective activities that I undertake in all of the classes I teach (as well as the mentoring, coaching and other academic leadership work that I do). I also have my students do significant reflective writing (in groups and as individuals), and that has transformed my teaching and my students’ learning in rich and surprising ways. One particularly illustrative example is from a student in a previous singer/songwriter ensemble, who wrote that after doing this kind of deep reflective work, he finally understood how his brain worked! Is that not amazing?!
Maryellen’s post also got me thinking about my own writing and reflections — especially about the end of this semester and the change in my academic assignments for this year. This is the last week of classes at the University of Colorado Denver. Next week is finals week and then I am headed to Ireland for the holidays — back to a magical place that has informed and transformed my knowledge about and love for the people, places, history and culture of Ireland. I spent a wonderful Fulbright year in Ireland as a US Scholar, based at the University of Limerick in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (and am a current Fulbright Ambassador). During the spring of 2011, I spent my sabbatical living in a small coastal village on the southwest coast of Ireland. Next semester, I am teaching a new Honors course on Irish Music, Peace, Politics and Popular Culture.
This year, I have had the opportunity to continue teaching in my discipline (Music & Entertainment Industry Studies) half time and working half time in the Center for Faculty Development as the Faculty Fellow for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). I am also the Campus Director for the CU-System’s President’s Teaching and Learning Collaborative (PTLC) and working with faculty in multiple disciplines across campus who are doing scholarly inquiry into their teaching. It’s been an intense and really fine semester. I have some great reflective writing artifacts from students and faculty, and I have some personal reflective writing artifacts that will help to inform and transform many aspects of the teaching I did this year and teaching I will do in the future.
I am excited about the peace and quiet that a few weeks in Ireland between semesters will afford me, and I am eager to take some time to reflect on the successes and challenges of this semester and look forward to spring of 2012 and new challenges and opportunities. Here’s wishing all of you a peaceful holiday season and a productive New Year!