Using mid-term student feedback

General strategies

  • Feedback formDecide what you want to assess. For example, do you want to find out how well the students are learning the material, the effectiveness of your teaching, or something else of interest to you? The type of feedback you wish to receive will determine the questions you ask.
  • Schedule fast feedback at times appropriate to the course. If you have just begun teaching, have drastically revised a course, or observed that students are having difficulties, you may want to hold a feedback session as early as the third week of classes. Otherwise, you may want to wait until mid-semester. Remember, though, if you ask for feedback after the mid-term test, most of the comments will relate to the exam.
  • Use different feedback techniques throughout the semester. Experiment with techniques that appeal to you and see which produce the most helpful information. There are many good online tools for creating informal surveys and questionnaires and although response rates can be lower for online surveys and questionnaires these tools can help you compile and visualize the data. Consider developing your own methods for obtaining feedback.

Collecting feedback

  • Review student work to collect informal feedback. Use students’ in-class questions and work on assignments as gauges of their understanding of the course material. You might also periodically check their notes to see how well they are taking in the information.
  • Ask the students to reply anonymously to a few questions. You can ask what is going well in the course and what needs improvement. Or you could ask what to start, stop, and continue in the course. Ask for specific comments so you can interpret the ideas accurately. Leave the room while the students write their comments and have a student collect the responses and return them to you. You could also devise a questionnaire for them to complete.
  • Use a suggestion box. Place a large envelope on your office door and encourage students to drop off questions, comments, or problems. You can bring a box to each class, too, if you wish.
  • Have your class observed. You could arrange to have either a Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) representative or a colleague observe one or more classes to give you feedback before the term is over. You may also opt to have a class videotaped by staff in Instructional Technologies and Multimedia Services.
  • Do your own analysis. You can be collecting your own mid-term feedback by writing your own reflections on your lecture notes after each class, keeping a teaching journal, or completing checklists. One tip here is to make sure you record concepts that caused students difficulty or really insightful student questions so that you can alter your future lecture to deal with those areas.
  • Ask CTE to run a formal feedback session with your students. After you leave, the facilitator will ask questions, agreed upon by you, which students first answer individually, then in small groups, and finally, together as a whole class. With the class, the facilitator summarizes the points on which there is consensus, asks for clarification on points of disagreement, and probes for more detail where needed. The written comments are collected and a confidential report is created for you. Collecting student feedback on your own, however, typically helps to strengthen your rapport with your students.

Responding to students’ feedback

  • Respond to feedback as soon as possible. Collect feedback when you are in a position to immediately review the comments. Respond to feedback received by other means, such as email, as appropriate. Clarify any misunderstandings about your goals and their expectations. Tell them what suggestions you will act on this term, those that must wait until next term, and those that you will not act on and why. Ask them to continue to help you improve the course.
  • Consider carefully what students say. Review the positive comments about the course first, since it may be easy to be discouraged by negative comments. Then consider the suggestions for improvement and group them into three categories:

    • Those you can change this semester (e.g., turnaround time on homework)
    • Those that must wait until the next time the course is offered (e.g., the textbook)
    • Those that you cannot or, for instructional reasons, will not change (e.g., the number of quizzes or tests)
  • Thank them for their comments. Students appreciate knowing that you care about what they say.

Resources

  • Angelo, T.A. & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass (LB 2822.75.A54)
  • Rando, W.C. & Lenze, L.F. (1994). Learning from Students. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University. (LB 2822.75.R36x)
  • Using Course Evaluations to Improve Teaching & Learning. CTE teaching tip sheet.