- Midterm Feedback Evaluations
- Reflective Practices
Learning is a two way street and everyone can benefit from some constructive feedback and reflection. Below are some popular methods for collecting feedback about your teaching.
Midterm feedback evaluations are confidential, voluntary opportunities for instructors to get student feedback on a selected course, allowing for meaningful changes to be made while the course is still in progress. Unlike end-of-term evaluations, the midterm feedback goes directly to, and only to, the instructor, unless you choose otherwise. You can use the evaluation as a way to begin a dialogue with students about course content and successful learning strategies and as a tool for examining your own assumptions about teaching and learning. The evaluation allows you to gauge how and what students are learning and to assess your teaching.
Conducting a successful midterm feedback evaluation requires you to:
- Develop appropriate questions
- Identify the tool you will use to collect feedback, communicate your plan to your students, and provide them with instructions
- Analyze, report back on, and follow up on the feedback provided
For more information on everything discussed below, see the slides for the pre-COVID-19 workshop we offered on this subject.
Educators agree that you should keep the survey a reasonable length; you cannot cover all aspects of the course with one survey. With too many questions, you run the risk of the students just wanting to finish it and not taking the time to provide detailed and valuable feedback.
Some of the most popular feedback questionnaire structures are very simple:
- Stop/Start/Continue (SSC): Ask your students to identify one thing in the course that is not helping them to learn (stop), one thing that you could add to the course to improve their learning experience (start), and one thing that you’re currently doing in the course that is helping them to learn (continue).
- Keep/Add/Drop (KAD): This is a variation on the Stop/Start/Continue model. Simply ask students to identify one element of the course that should be kept because it is helping with their learning (keep), one that should be added to improve the learning experience in the course (add), and one that can be dropped because it is not helping with their learning (drop).
- Like/Dislike/Suggestion (LDS): Similar to the SSC and KAD models, this option uses three questions (adapted from University of Massachusetts):
- What do you like most about this course and/or the teaching of it?
- What do you like least about the course and/or the instructor’s teaching of it?
- What suggestions can you offer that would make this course a better learning experience?
You can also ask other, more specific questions, but, as before, it is advisable to design your survey so that students can complete it in about five minutes. Be as specific as possible when asking questions (i.e., is the current turnaround time for assignments fast enough?), but leave room for students to generate their own critiques. This will open up a dialogue and students will be more willing to share their thoughts if they know you’re interested. You know your course best, so tailor your questions to target areas you feel may be problematic. Questions can gather information on a wide variety of course topics such as the quality of the textbook, lectures, assignments, discussions, group work, labs, classroom environment, and readings.
If you do add other, more specific questions, consider using question pairs that encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning:
- Q1: How helpful is the instructor’s feedback?
- Q2: Do you study the feedback from the previous assignment to make sure you do better on the next one?
Some other questions you might want to consider asking (adapted from Dalhousie University):
- How accessible/appropriate/related/useful is the textbook for this course?
- Did the problems worked out in the modules/class sessions/tutorials help you to understand how to work out questions on your own?
- Did you find the assignments relevant/interesting/challenging? Why or why not?
- Are the assignment/lab experiment procedures clearly explained?
- In what ways is the format of the class helpful or detrimental to your learning experience?
For still more question options, check out our Common Survey Questions document.
Suzanne Le-May Sheffield, from Dalhousie University, suggests that you should explain why you are giving this evaluation to your students and emphasize that it is an anonymous, voluntary process. Be sure to provide ample time to complete the survey.
Given the need to deliver our classes online, you will need to conduct your feedback session online. Use the Feedback (Survey) tool on cuLearn. You can learn how to set up this tool using the information on our cuLearn Support for Instructors webpage; if you encounter any difficulties, you can get help by emailing the Ed Tech team at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can use another tool, such as Too Fast or SurveyMonkey, but note that only cuLearn is institutionally supported.
When setting up your Midterm Feedback, consider adopting these best practices:
- Conduct your feedback session somewhere around week 4-6 of your 12-week course
- Whenever possible, integrate the feedback activity into your lesson for the week; make it part of the lesson for the week, instead of something “extra” your students have to do on their own time
- Keep it anonymous—and do not offer additional grades
- Leave the survey open for about a week so that students can contribute on their own schedule
- Spend some time introducing the activity to your students so they understand what you’re doing and why, and what’s expected of them. Feel free to use or adapt the talking points provided in this document to help you do so.
Studies show that you may experience anxiety when receiving student evaluation feedback. More experienced colleagues would advise you to focus on the positive and constructive ideas your students have said about the course and try not to take especially critical feedback personally. Ignore the polarized comments at either extreme: there will be people that strongly like or dislike you as an instructor or some element of your course. You are not a super hero and won’t be able to fix everything; focus on general trends and common themes.
For that reason, the first step after you’ve collected the feedback is to read through it (or, for a larger class, a random representative sample), sorting the comments into coherent categories and taking note of how many times each point was raised. You can capture the results of this sorting and coding process on a slide such as one of the ones provided in this template. At this stage, you will want to reflect carefully on the substance of the feedback, especially those comments that have a high frequency tally: which pieces of feedback can you confidently act on because you can see that they will improve the course? Which ones raise course design decisions that you are invested in and which you must now take the time to explain the rationale for to your students? Take some time preparing to report back and debrief on the results.
At this stage, you are now ready to report back to your class, using a class-wide Announcement on cuLearn, a screen-capture recording you make for the occasion, or perhaps in a synchronous session over BigBlueButton, Zoom or Teams. Share with your students the document in which you captured and sorted the main pieces of feedback, along with tallies for how many times students made similar comments for each. Explain which changes you are comfortable making, and which you aren’t—along with your rationale for why those things won’t change. Often, students dislike something because they don’t see why you value it: if you value it, explain why that is. Instructors also often receive contradictory feedback on the same element of a course: sharing that information with your students, and explaining what you’re seeing, can be a valuable reminder to your students that they are one person in a larger class of students who may well have different preferences.
If you’re conducting the debrief asynchronously, provide your students with a list of changes that, based on the feedback, both you and the class need to make. If you’re conducting the debrief synchronously, get students directly and actively involved in helping you to compose that document. Aim for balance here: for each commitment added to the professor’s column, one should be added to the student column, and vice versa. It is pivotal that students come to view themselves as part of a learning community, and that everyone—the instructor, the students—is responsible for the learning environment in the course. To help facilitate this exchange, consider using or adapting the slide template provided here.
Instructors who have done midterm evaluations warn that it is critical to take the survey process full circle and respond constructively to the results of the survey. Express your gratitude and share the results with your students in class shortly after the survey is completed. Avoid being defensive or apologetic, but have faith in your teaching and course design. (Barbara Gross Davis, 1993).
Reflective practice is the ideal way to become the best you can be as an instructor. There are several forms of feedback you can receive.
Summative feedback centers around telling you how you did through formal course evaluations. This data will not be available to you until well after a course is done, so it won’t help you revamp the course for your current students, but it’s very useful in the long term.
Formative feedback centres around improving your future performance. It is highly recommended that you collect this sort of feedback while the course is going on so that you can respond to your current students. Formative feedback is also excellent material for inclusion in a teaching dossier: it is a good idea to collect and archive such feedback for future use. There are a number of methods available:
- Muddiest point: As your students to identify something raises in the week’s readings/lecture/module that they found especially confusing. Collate their responses to identify, for example, the class’s top 3 areas of confusion. You can use this information at the start of the next lecture/module or to connect your students with resources on the subjects that you have either vetted or created.
- One-minute paper: Have students anonymously comment on the course so far. Ask for specific feedback on certain areas to help focus general comments, but keep it within the one-minute time frame.
- Teaching journal: After each class or course milestone, comment on how you think things are going – general thoughts, things students said in class, what you might do differently in the future, etc. A stripped down version of a journal might entail writing a few comments to yourself on the relevant section of the weekly schedule for your course syllabus — i.e., Was the pacing right? Did the activities work? Were students engaged?
- Unsolicited cards/emails: Students will give you cards or send emails providing you with unsolicited feedback or thanking you for extra help. Keep these organized in a safe place.
- Peer conducted oral evaluation: Invite a colleague or EDC staff member to conduct an oral evaluation with your students. The evaluator then passes the comments back to you.
- Small group feedback: Small group feedback is typically obtained using three open-ended questions over a 20-minute period. In groups of 3-5, students designate a recorder and decide what their consensus views are in three categories (i.e., what do you like most about the course, what do you like least and what suggestions fo you have to make the course better?). After discussing all three questions, the students are asked to indicate those items that are most important for the instructor to hear. Following the questionnaire, we’ll meet with you one-on-one to share the feedback both verbally and in written form.
- Online surveys: If you would prefer to conduct the assessment yourself, or you have larger classes, we can set up an online midterm feedback questionnaire that would be made available through cuLearn. Forward your course information (date and time, location, size) and we will contact you to set up an appointment. At this time, we can only offer an evaluation of one course per instructor. The following links can help you get started with online surveys:
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