Checking in Halfway Through the Term
It’s always illuminating to get students’ feedback on the way we’ve designed our courses: what’s helping them learn, what’s not helping them learn, and what adjustments we could make for the remainder of the term. Just the act of checking in with our students about how the course is going from their perspective shows that we care about their learning and success. During the pandemic, when many of us are teaching in atypical modalities, it’s even more important to check in with students at midsemester (or at several points) rather than waiting to get their feedback at the end of the term, on our course evaluations, when it’s too late to make any changes.
There are many ways to take a snapshot of how students are doing in a course. Formative assessments—whether they are activities, assignments, reflections, quizzes, or something else—can give both our students and us a sense of their progress toward the learning goals: what they are doing well and should continue, and what they need to work on or adjust. (By this point of the semester, students should already have formative feedback on their work and a strong sense of their progress in the course.)
It’s useful for students to be able to communicate with us in other ways, too: We can ask them to write about how the course is going, or to take a survey on which they can provide quantitative, qualitative, or both types of feedback on our teaching. Samples are available here and here. You can use a template or create and distribute your own survey during or outside of class time, using Canvas, Qualtrics, or another survey app. We’ve developed a sample midterm evaluation that you can import into Canvas, and instructions are available here.
If you’re teaching online, remote, or flex, you might also consider including survey questions related to the modality, such as questions about how class sessions are going on Zoom (including in breakout rooms), whether students are having any trouble navigating the modules or finding materials on Canvas, or whether student are able to understand instructions, expectations, and keep up with the workload (especially in an asynchronous online course).
Since midterm evaluations give us vital information on the effectiveness of our teaching, in time to act upon it, they often improve end-of-semester evaluations as well. But there are two important provisos: First, students must be confident that the feedback process is safe and anonymous, so that their honesty will not negatively affect your relationship or their grade. Second, it’s essential that you follow up with students, thanking them for their feedback and outlining how you’ll use it: accommodating reasonable, useful suggestions and explaining why others aren’t feasible this semester.
If you’d like support, we’re happy to help you design a method of collecting feedback that works well for your course. We can also help you interpret the results, consider adjustments you’d like to make, and plan how you will discuss the feedback with students. Just send us an email at email@example.com, and we’ll be at your service. We look forward to working with you!