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Teaching Logs: A Tool for Reflective Practice

As instructors, it is important that we reflect on our teaching practices so that we can better serve our future students by considering not only what worked or what didn’t, but also the beliefs we hold related to teaching and how those impact our work. We should base these reflections on evidence of effective teaching.  There are numerous sources from which we could gather evidence about our teaching to reflect upon, for example from self assessment, peer assessment, or student course evaluations.  One way to do a self assessment of teaching is by keeping a teaching log, a practice where we set aside a few minutes after each class session to reflect on how it went.

What are the benefits of keeping a teaching log?

There are many benefits to keeping a teaching log which offset the time it takes to keep the log. The primary benefit is that we can do a better job in our future teaching – or at least not make the same mistakes twice! By reflecting on each class session soon after it has occurred, we’re better positioned to remember what worked well or what didn’t while those things are fresh in our minds. When we next set out to teach a class, reading our own teaching log provides great information about how we might need to modify the course for the upcoming semester. And finally, if we need to document our reflective teaching practice, we can use our teaching log as an example of the ways we reflect on modify our teaching.

Questions to consider when reflecting on your teaching

There’s no set formula for what must be included in a teaching log; the goal is simply to reflect on the class session. The most straightforward approach would be to answer these two questions:

  • What worked during this class and why did it work?
  • What didn’t go as expected during this class session and why was that?

However, we might choose to go deeper in our analysis of the class session by considering some of the following questions from Kimberly Tanner’s article Promoting Student Metacognition (which also encourages instructor metacognition):

  • What were my goals for this class session and did I reach them?
  • How could I make this material more personally relevant for my students?
  • What did I notice about how students were behaving during this class session? Why do I think this was happening?
  • What language or active-learning strategies did I use that appeared to be facilitating learning? Impeding learning?
  • How was the pace of the class?
  • Did students seem adequately prepared for the class? Why or why not? How could I have improved that?

When you’re just getting started with a teaching log, it is probably a good idea to start with just a couple of questions so that the time commitment doesn’t prevent you from making an entry.

How to create a teaching log

There are many ways to keep a teaching log from the very simple to more sophisticated. When I first started keeping a log, I would simply add a blank sticky note to my lesson plan for the day and then use that sticky note to capture my reflection about how the class session went. Another option is to create a digital document where after each class session you record what worked well, where there’s room for improvement, and any other observations you had. Finally, if you create your lesson plans digitally, another option would be to add comments to the lesson plan after the class session about what worked well and what may need to be modified in the future.

Although it might feel overwhelming to imagine keeping a teaching log after each class session, the benefits are significant. In addition to those listed, we also become more metacognitive as teachers as we practice reflecting on our teaching in these ways. We know that for our students, developing their metacognitive skills is important and the same is true for us as instructors. With the rich set of insights that come out of a teaching log, we’re well positioned to continually improve in our teaching work.


Reflective Teaching from Yale University

Tanner K., Promoting Student Metacognition, CBE – Life Sciences Education. Vol. 11, No. 2, 2017.


Dr. Megan Frary

Coordinator for Graduate TA Support, Boise State Center for Teaching and Learning

Associate Professor, Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering