Nurse educators act as one of the most critical sources of training and knowledge development for nursing students. Not only do they provide the education needed to become a registered nurse, but they also act as mentors and role models for students at the bachelor and postgraduate levels.

One key teaching technique of particular value for nursing educators and their students is reflective teaching. Using a range of reflective teaching techniques, nurse educators can build awareness of what works best in helping nursing students have more fruitful classroom and clinical learning experiences.

What Is Reflective Teaching?

Reflective teaching is a process teachers use to examine the effectiveness of their teaching methods. Through reflection, thoughtfulness, and feedback from others, it provides teachers with a way to evaluate their teaching style and approach to the material they introduce to students.

Educators using reflective teaching take deliberate action to think about their underlying beliefs and attitudes about learning and their students, with the ultimate goal of providing more targeted learning opportunities tailored to their students’ needs. In one study, teachers trained to use reflective teaching methods learned techniques for revising and modifying their teaching strategies, resulting in better teaching performance and learning outcomes.

In nursing education, reflective teaching can be particularly helpful in guiding students through new classroom and clinical experiences, as has been the case when many nursing students had to shift to simulations and virtual learning in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when nurse educators may have had limited experience with remote teaching and using simulation technology to engage students, reflective teaching allowed them to explore new ways of presenting material.

Both before and during the pandemic, reflective teaching has offered new opportunities for educators to see what works best for their students and where it makes sense to make adjustments. Other potential benefits of reflective teaching include the following:

  • Better adoption of innovative learning techniques
  • Development of broader teacher capabilities
  • Increased potential for development of reflective learning in students

Types of Reflective Teaching Techniques for the Nurse Educator

Reflective teaching may be more important than ever before. In an article featured in, Teaching and Learning in Nursing, the author addresses the importance of reflective learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying, “During the COVID-19 pandemic, many nurse educators are being urged to take on new teaching methods. Rather than opting for a particular teaching method and style, or making assumptions, nurse educators should see this period as an opportunity to deeply engage in reflective practices.”

To apply reflective teaching techniques in the nursing curriculum both during and after the pandemic, nursing educators can experiment with the following methods.

1. Reflection Journals

Writing one’s reflections can be both satisfying and rewarding. For some teachers, writing their reflections about teaching scenarios during the day offers time to reexamine what went well or how instruction could have been approached differently. A reflection journal also provides opportunities for teachers to go back in time and see trends in their teaching reflection and learning over time.

Here are just a few examples of the kinds of information educators can record in a reflection journal:

  • Teaching priorities for a specific class or cohort of students
  • Notes about learning gaps to be addressed in subsequent classes
  • Thoughts on sources of teaching stress and how to address them

2. Audio or Video Recordings of Teaching Sessions

Like a journal, a recorded teaching session provides educators with a detailed history of past instruction. In fact, a meta-analysis of dozens of studies on the effects of video in teachers’ reflective practices found that video promotes deeper reflection and “exposes teachers to many different potential situations (and all their complexities), engaging them in a collective analysis of these situations.”

By watching video-recorded sessions of their instruction, teachers have an opportunity to reflect on their actions more objectively. Absent the availability of video, even listening to an audio recording can help teachers observe their speech patterns, vocabulary, and tone of voice when interacting with students.

3. Student Evaluations

Reflective teaching need not always be a solo endeavor. Hearing from students about their experiences with a nurse educator can strengthen teacher understanding of how different teaching styles and behaviors are received by students, including which are more appreciated (or not) as valuable to overall learning,

By incorporating student feedback into their reflection, nurse educators can bring to light aspects of their teaching that might not have been visible before. For example, when introducing video technology for virtual instruction, teachers can use student evaluations to understand how well they are seen and heard over video and how well they use videoconferencing functionality to make it easier for students to communicate during class.

4. Peer Reviews

Just as peer-to-peer learning benefits nursing students, peer feedback offers nurse educators a fresh perspective of their teaching behaviors. More specifically, formal or informal peer reviews can provide educators with input from other educators to help them reflect on their teaching approach and success in introducing new material and technology.

Peers can provide feedback and observations covering the following areas:

  • Approach to new material
  • Time spent answering student questions
  • Involvement in student dialogue during class time

Identify New Ways to Support Nursing Students

Providing nursing students with the educational foundation they need to become a registered nurse comes with myriad challenges. New best practices in nursing instruction and pandemic-related changes create a learning environment that is always changing. Therefore, incorporating reflective teaching into the nurse educator toolkit isn’t just a nice-to-have, but rather a critically important element of nursing education.

In addition to encouraging nurse educators to continuously improve their teaching style and approach through reflective teaching, you can also support nursing students by incorporating the technology and resources they need to meet clinical site requirements ahead of participation in clinical rotation and residency programs. By helping students understand what they must do to meet requirements for immunization, drug testing, and background screening, you can help to ease their transition from classroom to clinical practice, so they can hit the ground running.