Timely Feedback from Students
If you think about teaching as a puzzle, or a series of problems to solve, you’ll never grow bored: no class of students is ever exactly like the last one, and there’s always something to improve, a new idea to incorporate, or an unexpected complication to address as we’re designing learning experiences for our students. We can solve the puzzles most effectively when we have lots of information to work with. Grades and other feedback on students’ progress are essential sources of data—if students aren’t performing as well as we’d like, we may need to adjust the pace of the course, tweak our assignments, or give students more practice with the kinds of thinking they need to master. Students’ perspectives on their learning are also indispensable, and we need their feedback now, when we can use it, rather than after the semester has ended. Here are two easy strategies for gathering timely feedback from students about what’s helping them to learn:
Midterm evaluations give you vital insight into the health of your course. (Since they send students the message that you’re committed to students’ progress and success, they also tend to improve end-of-semester evaluations, as long as you close the loop and address them with your class, letting students know what you heard and what you’re able to adjust.) Samples are available here and here. You can also administer one of CAT’s template midterm evaluation surveys through Canvas. Instructions here. We’re available to help you interpret the results and consider changes you’d like to make.
Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID). If you can spare about 25 minutes of class time, you can invite staff or student consultants from CAT to conduct SGIDs for you. We’ll talk to your students about how their learning experience is going, using a brief writing exercise followed by small group discussion and a quick class-wide debrief. We’ll meet with you afterwards to discuss the responses and your plans for modifications.
There are two important provisos: Students must be confident that the feedback process is safe—that it’s anonymous—so they can respond frankly. (You also may be assured that it’s optional and entirely confidential: midterm feedback is purely for formative purposes.) It’s also essential that you follow up with students, accommodating reasonable, useful suggestions, and explaining why others aren’t feasible.
In SGIDs last year, surprisingly many students asked for more quizzes and more practice; they wanted to know how they were doing so they could adjust and improve. If you’re eager for feedback, too, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a session.