Formative Feedback + Summer Course Design Institute

Gathering Midsemester Feedback

When teaching, it’s natural to wonder how the course is going for students. We might wonder what’s working for them and what’s not or whether they are really learning what we hope they will. Sometimes a few vocal students can make it seem like everyone’s “getting it” (or not getting it), so to get a better picture of how things are going, we need to collect various forms of evidence of their learning.

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 us a sense of students’ progress toward the learning goals. They can show us both what students are doing well and should continue, and what they need to work on or adjust. They might also suggest changes we could make in our courses.

In addition to gathering that type of regular formative feedback, we can also ask students to tell us about their learning experiences directly. They can do some informal writing about how the course is going, or we can give them 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.

Since midsemester feedback gives us vital information on students’ experience of our teaching, in time to act upon it, it often improves 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 happen to survey students next week, you can summarize and respond to their feedback when classes resume after spring break. This might be a nice way to reconvene the class, with an expression of care about students’ learning experiences and a plan to use their feedback to help make the rest of the semester as productive as possible.

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, and we’ll be at your service. We look forward to working with you!


Summer 2024 Course Design Institute

June 24-27 | 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. | In-person, lunch provided | Click to apply
Note: Based on requests from colleagues, this year we’re holding the CDI in Summer B.

CAT’s Course Design Institute (CDI) provides faculty with the time, structure, and support they need to craft transformative and inclusive learning experiences that reach and inspire their students. Course design and planning need not be lonely work; they are best accomplished in a community of peers who are similarly engaged. The seminar is a four-day series of hands-on workshops, during which faculty will hone their goals for student learning, plan effective use of class time, and work on sequencing and scaffolding coursework, as well as gathering valid evidence of learning. They will also work on strategies for fostering welcoming classroom climates and cultivating student motivation. Participants will gain:

  • Structured support to (re)design a course for maximum learning
  • Assistance and feedback on course design, including learning goals; assignment and exam design; effective use of class time; class activities; active-learning strategies; etc
  • Expertise in learner-centered teaching and backward design
  • Strategies for motivating students
  • Collegial community and peer feedback

Each faculty participant will receive a stipend of $2,000 upon successful completion of the course redesign. Seats are limited, and full-time faculty of all ranks are eligible. Priority will be given to courses that reach large numbers of students, and to applications from teams of faculty, either teaching multiple sections of the same course or courses that students take in a series. Participants must be able to attend all sessions of the workshop, complete pre-work, and submit final revised plans by August 1st.

You can apply through the link above. Please include a brief letter of support from your chair. The deadline to apply is Sunday, March 31st, and decisions will be made by Wednesday, April 3rd. If you have questions about attending the seminar, please email us at We look forward to working with you!