Mid-term evaluations are a great tool for getting constructive feedback from students before it is too late to make adjustments to improve teaching effectiveness. Studies show that collecting student feedback in the middle of the term leads to higher evaluation scores at the end of the semester, indicating an increase in student satisfaction. Moreover, these evaluations show students that you are concerned about their experience in your class and that you value their opinion. They also give students the chance to communicate that the class is meeting their expectations and/or to voice their frustrations if it is not.
Mid-semester evaluations can be administered in a number of ways, but to collect insightful feedback, it is important that questions are tailored to your course and teaching methods. Identify specific points to include in your questionnaire, but also provide space for open-ended responses. Find out what helps students learn, what hinders them, and what suggestions they have for you.
The evaluation process can take place in six easy steps:
- Choose a delivery format and design questions. Consider areas of your teaching and course content that you want to emphasize. Such topic areas for focus may include where you perceive students might be having trouble, new activities or modes of instruction, or what class elements have been the most/least useful. Some formats and example questions you can incorporate into your evaluations include:
- “Pluses and Wishes”: Have students divide a piece of paper in half, writing things they appreciate about the course (pluses) on top and changes they would like to see on the bottom (wishes).
- KQS: Keep doing, Quit doing, and Start doing, and its simple format will produce straightforward and directive advice.
- Survey Questionnaire: For more specific feedback, you can create your own items for the students to rate using a scale (Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree). Some examples are as follows:
- The instructor communicates class material clearly.
- The format of the course is helpful for my learning.
- Supporting materials are typically helpful.
- Projects and assignments help reinforce lecture content.
- The instructor is approachable.
When students are finished rating their courses, they can write an explanation for why they strongly agreed or disagreed, or you can include additional open-ended questions at the end of the evaluation. See this question bank from University Center for Teaching and Learning for more ideas.
Note that if you want to ensure anonymity, create a survey online; or, if applicable, have a TA administer and type up the handwritten responses.
- Communicate to your students the evaluation process and its importance to them.
- Administer the evaluation. Timing is important. Evaluations should be administered either at the one-third or half-way mark and usually after students have had a difficult exam or challenging assignment. Allow around 10 minutes from a class session to do so. You should decide if it is best to administer the evaluation at the beginning or end of the class, or even before a break. If you have created an online survey, students can also complete the evaluation outside of class, but that runs the risk of getting fewer responses. Mid-term evaluations are usually informal, can be anonymous, and some professors use this as a chance for students to earn extra credit.
- Interpret results.
- Before you read and analyze the results, it is helpful to perform a self-evaluation. Look at the questions that you have included and rate yourself. This gives you a good point of reference when reading the results from students.
- Note the strengths and weaknesses from the feedback. Focus on the areas for improvement that have the most responses, as those could be areas for improvement.
- Identify areas of improvement and make a plan to address these changes. This is actionable feedback. Look for patterns and avoid fixating on isolated comments (but be careful not to dismiss them).
If you want help interpreting your results, you can make an appointment the University Center for Teaching and Learning.
- Share the results with your students.
Midterm evaluations yield important information about how your students are handling the course curriculum and if your perceptions match those of your students. It is helpful to spend some time sharing the most common responses with your students, as well as explaining which of their suggestions you plan to implement and why. Doing so will get students more interested and engaged in the course evaluation process, which will provide more valuable insights at the end of the term. Avoid apologizing, instead say “I have reviewed your feedback, I agree with X because Y. To address this, I will adopt Z moving forward.” If you choose not to make a change, acknowledge the legitimacy of student concerns and reiterate the rationale for a specific course element.
You can also share these results in future semesters to explicitly show your rationale for doing things a certain way. Also, it shows that you value student input, which can encourage them to participate when it’s their turn to give you feedback.
- Implement changes. Changes can be anything from attending teacher training sessions or professional developmental workshops or adding an additional recitation to considering large-scale syllabus edits.
Mid-term evaluations, when executed transparently and with thoughtful preparation, take a little bit of time but can yield big results.