How and Why to Gather Mid-Semester Feedback from your Students
By Mandy McGrew, CETL Educational Specialist, Scholarly Teaching
September 24, 2020
As the semester progresses, you might find yourself wondering how things are going . . . With so many faculty teaching online both synchronously and asynchronously, and others navigating between face-to-face students and others watching a live stream, there are a lot of folks out there wondering the same thing: is this working? Gathering feedback from students isn’t usually done until the end of the semester, but at that point it is too late to make changes to our classes. And with so many aspects of our courses being new and so many of us trying things for the first time, you should consider conducting an informal midterm course evaluation in your classes so you can respond to student feedback and make adjustments while it will still benefit this semester’s students.
Mid-semester course evaluations are a great tool for improving our understanding of ourselves as teachers. Just as we want our students to practice what they are learning and to reflect on their progress, so should we. Informal evaluations give us a window into what our students are thinking. They are easy to carry out, require little effort, and don’t take up much time. Collecting feedback from students equips you with the knowledge you need to alter course content and activities to improve student learning and foster motivation and positive attitudes about the class. It also gives you the opportunity to address any unrealistic expectations students might have about the course.
With all of these excellent reasons in favor of performing mid-semester evaluations, I know you are eager to get started and here is how . . .
Seek feedback when you can make changes
Conducting evaluations between weeks 5 and 7 of classes works well. At this point in the semester students have a feel for the course, but you can still make adjustments to your course delivery. You can ask your students for feedback at any point during the semester, though.
If student anonymity is maintained, you are more likely to receive honest feedback from your students. Ensuring that they feel safe in sharing their ideas with you means you will receive the most candid and constructive responses.
Ask questions that prompt reflection
Open-ended questions that require students to reflect on their experience in the course are best for eliciting useful responses. Your questions should be specific enough that they guide students to think about the kinds of things you want to know about, but open enough that it doesn’t seem like you are leading them to certain conclusions.
- “What have you liked about the course so far?”
- "What aspects of the course have contributed to your learning so far?”
- “What aspects of the course could be improved?”
- “What could the instructor do better to facilitate your learning?”
The “Stop-Start-Continue” method is another way to get students thinking critically about the class. Have students identify one thing they would like you to Stop doing, one thing they would like you to Start doing, and one thing about the class that is contributing to their learning and that they would like you to Continue doing.
Use technology to solicit student feedback
It may seem difficult to collect anonymous feedback from your online students but there are many ways to do so with the technology tools we have at our disposal.
You can also use the tools within the D2L learning management system to gather anonymous feedback from students. You could use the quiz tool to ask your students questions about how they feel the class is going, then set the quiz to collect responses anonymously. You could also create a Discussion Board Topic where students can post anonymous feedback to you. You might want to set this discussion board to require moderator approval for posting, so only you see the suggestions until you are ready to respond to them.
Kahoot! is a polling application that many students are familiar with from their K-12 experience and many college courses. You can create questions in the Kahoot! based on what it is you want to know from the students and allow them to take the “quiz” remotely. Set the Kahoot activity to report the answers anonymously and let your students know that you will not be able to connect their answers with their names. For more information on Kahoot!, visit the website here: https://kahoot.com/
Padlet is an online bulletin board that you can use to post questions and ask students to respond to those questions anonymously. This tool will allow your students to share their thoughts with you and also see what their classmates think about how the class is going. Padlet has the ability to allow anonymous posts and some other features you might find useful for ensuring your students respond professionally. For more information and to create your own Padlet, visit the website here: https://padlet.com/
Close the loop: Respond to student ideas
It is crucial that after you have gathered this data, you address what students had to say. Identify any patterns in the feedback you received. A common theme may indicate a gap in communication that can quickly and easily be rectified. Were there any blatant disagreements among students that need to be addressed? Identify the major themes that emerge and focus on those; try not to give outlying opinions unwarranted significance.
Respond to students’ comments during the next class meeting or within the week if fully online. Think about how you can change things this semester to improve students’ experiences and be clear about what will remain the same and why. If students are complaining that there is too much reading, but you feel it is an appropriate amount—tell them so. If the students disagree with one another about things that are taking place in class, let them know about that, too.
I hope these ideas help you elicit productive feedback from your students that you can use to head off any issues before the end of the semester. If you have any questions or ideas related to gathering student feedback or anything else regarding teaching, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at CETL Scholarly Teaching to schedule a consultation. For more information on our consultation process and philosophy, please visit our website: https://facultydevelopment.kennesaw.edu/scholarly-teaching/consultations.php
Davis, Barbara Gross. Tools for Teaching. Second Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Svinicki, Marilla and Wilbert J. McKeachie. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers. Thirteenth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2011.