Mid-semester Student Feedback

How do you know that your course is going as well as you’d hoped and expected? Although most courses at UNM ask students to fill out a student evaluation of your teaching at the end of the semester, that information can come too late to improve your course for students in the semester you are teaching. Typically, a good time to survey students is after you’ve graded a major assignment. This is often referred to as mid-semester feedback, but it could happen at multiple points throughout a term. The key is to do it early enough to make sure the feedback is useful for you and the students. One simple approach is to ask students these five questions:

  1. What are we doing in this course that is helping you to learn?
  2. What are we doing that isn’t helping you to learn?
  3. What could be added to the course that would help you to learn better?
  4. What are you doing in the course that’s helping you to be successful?
  5. What could you start doing that might help you to be more successful?

You can also include a couple of additional questions tailored to the specific course. For example, you might want to ask them if they find the course textbook helpful or which activities prepared them best for the major assignment. The Brown Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning also provides several examples of questions that are specific to class size and type, including labs and large-enrollment courses.

What should I do with the feedback?

After you read through their feedback, summarize what you read and share it with them in an video announcement or course message. Acknowledging your students’ feedback and making changes when necessary are two key factors in making mid-course evaluations impactful for your students. If you make changes in response to their feedback, let students know and be sure to keep your directions and due dates transparent. It’s OK to say, “Hey, it looks like you’re telling me that X isn’t working and you’d prefer it if we tried Y. I hear you and here are the changes I’ve made.” If students suggest a change that you aren’t willing to make, use this opportunity to tell them why you are sticking with your original plan.

Notice that good surveys avoid questions about preferences, such as “What do you like about this course so far?” and instead focus on learning. The last two questions listed above also lead students to a more metacognitive understanding of their own ways of learning. Students’ answers to these questions may give you a clue as to what additional resources they need to be successful. For example, if students are providing answers like “I would do better on the quizzes if I understood the mathematical terms,” then maybe you could provide some optional self-graded vocab quizzes for students. Or, if students say “I would have done better on this paper if I had gotten feedback earlier,” then you could take time to connect students with the UNM Online Writing Lab and help them set up a consultation before the next paper is due.

How should I gather this feedback?

You have a few different options for gathering feedback from students. First, you’ll want to decide whether or not you’d like anonymous feedback. Most of the research on mid-semester student feedback recommends that you gather anonymous feedback so that you can get more frank feedback from students, and students don’t have to be concerned about negative repercussions based on their comments.

For anonymous feedback in classes where students have some scheduled meetings (whether over Zoom or in a classroom) you can work with Dr. Kim Fournier to plan a mid-semester check in. This includes a pre-meeting with you to set expectations and discuss the process, two short 20-minute sessions with your students where they can provide feedback and prioritize it as a class, and a follow-up session with you to go over the feedback and brainstorm on next steps. If you are interested, you can learn more about the process by clicking through the resources below or by reaching out to Dr. Kim Fournier.

Mid Semester Students Feedback Process   Sample Participation Letter (Optional)

You can also request an Opinio account from UNM IT and provide your questions as a linked survey to students. Or, you could use Microsoft Forms and adjust the settings to allow for anonymous feedback.

If you’ve been conscientious about building rapport and trust with your students from the outset, you might also consider a reflective journal or class discussion board to gather feedback. Although these formats aren’t anonymous, you may be able to give students more personalized feedback when you know who is struggling with what, and students may benefit from hearing how other students are leveraging class resources. If you don’t get much useful feedback with these strategies, or only receive responses from students who are already active contributors in the course, consider opting for an anonymous strategy to see if more students will be more forthcoming.

Adapted from Teaching Matters (2022)