We can help students learn to be better learners by providing opportunities for them to get an accurate sense of how they are doing in our courses. By now, your students should have already received grades on a variety of course work, but grades are not the only useful data. The middle of the term is an important time to pause and take stock of how much and how well they’ve learned so far. A mid-semester student self-check is one tool you might use to help students reflect on their progress.
A mid-semester student self-check can happen during class or as homework. It has three important components:
- First, it should ask students to think about each of the learning goals they’ve been working toward and evaluate how much progress they’ve made. You might use an informal (ungraded) knowledge survey, which lists concepts or skills students should have learned so far in the course and asks them to self-evaluate their level of mastery or their confidence.
- Next, students should reflect on how much time they’re devoting to the class on a weekly basis and the strategies they’re using to prepare for the exams or assignments. What might they do differently?
- The last step is for students to develop a “game plan” or strategy for attaining their goals for the class. The good news is that, in most cases, it’s not too late for our students to be successful, and this exercise will let your students know that you have faith in their ability to succeed—and that’s essential to their motivation.
Our teaching can benefit from reflection and feedback around midsemester, too. Midterm evaluations give us vital information on the effectiveness of our courses. If we find out where they’re struggling, we can fine-tune the learning experiences we’re building for them. (Of course, it’s important that midterm evaluations be anonymous, so that students can respond frankly.)
We’ve developed a sample midterm evaluation that you can import into Canvas. Instructions are available here. We’re happy to help you interpret the results and consider adjustments you’d like to make.
Gathering midterm feedback on your teaching sends students the message that you’re committed to their progress and success. It also tends to improve end-of-semester evaluations, as long as you close the loop and address the issues with your students, letting them know what you heard and what you’re able to adjust.
If you’d like feedback on how your class is going, and you’d like a student’s perspective, you can now invite our trained student consultants to visit your class and gather data. There are multiple options:
-Informal evaluation: The student consultants can come to one of your classes to interview students about how well they are learning and how they perceive the class. The interview usually takes around 20 minutes. The student consultant then compiles the student responses into a report and meets with you to discuss the results.
-Observer/Note-taker: The student consultant records in writing what happened in your class (e.g., chronology of classroom activities; time spent in questioning, board work, small group discussion; and so on). If you wish, they can use the COPUS. The student consultant describes rather than evaluates, and meets with you to present and discuss the report.
-Primed student: Prior to class, you inform the student consultant what he or she should watch for. Examples: How often do certain students respond? Are the students discussing course material among themselves? What seems difficult for the students? What are the students in the back rows of the class doing? The student consultant writes his or her observations in a report to share with you.
To schedule a visit by a student consultant, contact Fabrizio Fornara at email@example.com.