Feed on

Okay, you’re about a month into the semester now and feeling good about things.  You’ve learned your students’ names, gotten them comfortable with your teaching style, and probably graded and returned a first assignment or exam.  But how do you know everything really is so peachy?


Why should I gather early semester feedback? 

  • Motivate students by demonstrating that you are concerned for their learning.
  • Improve your teaching.
  • Open up a conversations about your pedagogical methods, students’ study habits, and/or the modes of your discipline.
  • Allow for you to respond to students’ feedback before they complete formal evaluations at the end of the semester.


When should I survey my students?

You might choose to administer one larger survey or collect quick feedback throughout the semester.  If you decide to give one larger survey, time it between weeks four and seven of the semester (though late is better than never).  If your focus is on whether students have understood content in the course, you might want to ask for feedback before a review session, or after covering a particularly complex or difficult topic.  Finally, consider pairing feedback on your teaching with an update on students’ participation grades to make the process a two-way street. I’ve gotten very positive responses from students when I have explained how I view their learning as a collaborative endeavor that requires we all strive to be our best.


How do I collect feedback?

  1. Choose a format that best matches your concerns and class size.  Popular choices include a Likert-type ranking scale, start/keep/stop (what should we start doing? keep doing? stop doing?), and free responses.
  2. Write questions that will be clear to the students and provide you with helpful feedback.  Do not combine multiple questions together in a multiple choice or rating-scale survey. (e.g. The question “Do the lectures and class activities help you to understand the material better?” might have two different answers.)  If possible, refer to specific examples of teaching techniques or readings in your questions.  Leave space for open-ended suggestions and other comments.
  3. Administer the questions anonymously. Options for surveying students include:

a. Handwritten paper surveys administered during class. Though this method is simple and ensures high response rates, it will not be truly anonymous if there is a chance you might recognize some students’ handwriting.

b. Online survey tools (though Sakai Survey Tool, Survey Monkey, or an anonymous Google Form).

c. Bringing in a trusted outsider (e.g. a staff member of the Kaneb Center or a colleague) to conduct a group interview with the class.


What kinds of things might I ask about?

  • Student effort
  • Specific strategies or activities you have used in the course
  • Class format or pace
  • Course content
  • Improving class participation
  • Instructor availability or approachability
  • Usefulness of feedback
  • Speaking pace or clarity


Now what do I do with the answers?

Look for general trends in the surveys, rather than focusing on the outlying comments.  Then follow-up with your class about the results. Explain what you found, and talk about what adjustments you will make.  You might also suggest changes the students might make as well.  For example, if students are spending more time than you thought on the work, you can offer them more efficient study strategies.  If you cannot change something, explain your rationale. (Though try not to ask questions about things you are unwilling to change in the first place.)   Finally, make those changes you have discussed with the students!  Write yourself reminders in your office or on your lesson plans to follow through with your new plans for becoming a better teacher.


Please contact the Kaneb Center if you would like help with preparing, administering, or interpreting your early- or mid-semester feedback.


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