Feed on

As we approach the midpoint of the semester, now is a great time to take stock of how your course is going. One of the best ways to do this is to check in with students. Gathering mid-semester student feedback may seem daunting at first, but there are several good reasons why you should consider it.

First, research indicates that getting feedback from colleagues and students is the best way to improve your teaching (National Research Council 2003). It can also help improve your CIFs: studies have shown that instructors who gather feedback and use it to adjust and improve their classroom practice see higher ratings on end-of-semester evaluations (Huston 2009). But gathering mid-semester feedback doesn’t just help you; it also helps your students. Asking students to weigh in on the class lets them know you are invested in their learning and can lead to higher levels of student motivation and achievement (Jacobs, D. et al 2008 and Feldman, K. 1996). When students have a voice in their own learning process, they are more likely to be invested in that process.

So, how do you gather student feedback? That will depend on your class size and dynamic. You could consider facilitating informal conversations with students individually, in small groups, or all together. But be aware that students may not feel as comfortable or be as honest when sharing comments face to face as they would be anonymously. Another approach might be inviting a trusted colleague into your classroom to facilitate a structured conversation with students about the course and then report back to you. This has the advantage of making students accountable for their comments (they won’t say anything they wouldn’t say in front of others) but still keeping the feedback anonymous—plus, your colleague could get a sense of which suggestions the group broadly supports and which are particular to individual students. Finally, you could design a student survey to be distributed either electronically or on paper. Consider creating a combination of directed and open-ended questions to make space both for your concerns and your students’. 

Once you’ve gathered all this feedback, think carefully about what changes you’d like to make going forward. Ignore outlier comments and concentrate on broad trends in the feedback. And don’t forget to share the results of the evaluation with your students. They’ll appreciate your willingness to make changes based on their input—and it can help hold you accountable for making those changes.

Gathering mid-semester feedback is an important way to help improve your teaching and create a positive learning environment for your students. We hope you’ll consider doing it! You can find some sample evaluations on this Kaneb Center handout and some ideas about gathering early-semester student feedback in a previous blog post. For more information, check out the additional resources below.  


Additional Resources

Angelo, Thomas A. & Cross, K. Patricia. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd edition). Jossey-Bass Publishers. 

Feldman, K. (1996). Identifying Exemplary Teaching: Using Data. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 65, Spring, 1996, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, Inc. 

Fox, M. and Hackerman, N., Eds. (2003). Evaluating and improving undergraduate teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. (2003). National Research Council. 

Huston, Therese. (2009). Teaching what you don’t know. Harvard University Press.

Jacobs, D. et al. (2008.) Course Instructor Feedback (CIF) A Major Upgrade to the Teacher Course.

Lewis, K. G. (2001). Using Midsemester Student Feedback and Responding to It. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (87).

Overall, Jesse and Marsh, Herbert W. (1979). Midterm Feedback from Students: Its Relationship to Instructional Improvement and Students’ Cognitive and Affective Outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology 71: 856-865. 

Rando, W. C., & Lenze, Lisa Firing. (1994). Learning from students: early term student feedback in higher education. University Park, PA: National Center on Postsecondary Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

University of Illinois Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. Teaching Evaluation: Informal Early Feedback.

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