Midterm is a great time for reflection with your  students for the purpose of improving the classroom environment and teaching/learning experience during the current semester. It is at the classroom level and not shared with administration, and thus it is a low stakes way of enhancing your teaching practice.

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Why midterm feedback?

There are many reasons to check in with your students at midterm such as:

  • To ask students about something new that you’ve implemented.
  • To better address the needs of current students.
  • To empower students to assess their own learning process.
  • To mitigate frustration.
  • To improve end of course SCEs.

Best practices

  • Maintain confidentiality/anonymity
  • Emphasize that midterm feedback is not a punishment for you or the students
  • Emphasize and model constructive feedback
  • Make changes based on responses
  • Give some reward if needed such as a few points if the majority of the class responds

Common ways to gather feedback

There are many different ways to gather feedback in-class or online, quickly or with more depth. In most cases, a quick check-in with students is sufficient, and those are the first two examples on this list. If you have recently changed something fundamental about your class or are working on solving a sticky teaching problem, you may be interested in the third and fourth method. Let the CTL know if you'd like any help with either of those.

Students can write any of these of a piece of paper in class, or use whichever online survey tool you prefer.

  • Pluses and wishes - pluses are what the students like and wishes are what they would like to do differently. Often faculty will ask for "two pluses and a wish," or "a star and a wish."
  • I like...I wish...What if
  • SWQI - strengths, weaknesses, questions, and ideas
  • SII - Strengths, improvements, ideas

There are so many ways to ask "what do you like, or not like, about this class, and what could we do better?" Here are a few suggestions from faculty"

Question set 1

  1. List 2 things that you like about the class.
  2. List 2 things you would change about the class.
  3. Is the level of class discussion too high, too low, or just right?
  4. Are there ways that you, and your fellow students, could make the course more effective?
  5. What could the instructor do to enhance your learning experience?
  6. Thus far, how would you rate the course?

Question set 2

  1. What do you like most about this course and/or the instructor’s teaching of it?
  2. What about this course and/or the instructor’s teaching of it needs change or improvement?
  3. What suggestions can you offer that would help make this course a better learning experience for you?

Question set 3

  • What should your instructor stop doing?
  • What should your instructor start doing?
  • What should your instructor continue doing?

An outside observer, such as a CTL peer observer, conducts a single large group discussion with your class during class time. The faculty and observer identify two or three questions to ask, and the observer collects responses anonymously. This process can not only result in more honest answers than you are able to collect from a survey, but also gives students ownership of their class. For more information, see Yale's SGFS page.

SGID can be carried out by CTL faculty, or you can do it yourself. There are many approaches, and this one is a response to our brain's tendency to focus on the negative evals.

Responding to feedback, and changing

This is the most important part. You have to read the feedback forms and actually change something, and this can be very hard. Even one or two negative responses in a class can make responding very difficult. If you find yourself challenged by reading the forms, you may want to try SGIDs.

Here is a suggested approach to responding, which can also be applied to SCEs.

First sort through the responses...

ActionExample
Throw out the off-the-wall comments that do not provide you with useful information and forget about them."You need to update your wardrobe."
Set aside the positive comments that don't tell you anything specific."I love this class!"
Divide the negative comments into two groups: those you can change and those that you cannot change. Change the things you can.
Can Change: changing a due date for online homework from Sunday night to Monday morning. 

Cannot Change: the discussion focus of the class. 
Focus and capture positive responses to pedagogy to talk with students about your approaches."The class discussions are really helping me go deeper into the reading."
Work on perceptions and learn to be explicit.If your students ask for things that you are already doing, or ask for you to change the class structure, it is possible that you will need to have more conversations about how the class works and why.

...then talk with your students.

This is where you empower your students by making a requested change, and thank them. You can do it in-person, in a recorded message, or in an email. No matter which you do, a gracious tone is, of course, important. Try to take the feedback seriously, but not personally.

  • Thank students for responding.
  • Discuss a few of the many things that are going well.
  • Explain the plans for utilizing the feedback to make a specific change or two.
  • Maybe clarify any confusions or misunderstandings with students about the class. If this tests your diplomacy, then embed clarifications in future classwork.
  • Invite students to continue working with you to improve the course.
  • Reward students in whatever way you promised.

References and Resources

Contact Information

Center for Teaching and Learning

Library

500 8th Avenue

Lewiston, Idaho 83501