End-of-semester evaluations provide a quantitative analysis of class instruction; however, they may provide little direct feedback that instructors can use to improve teaching and learning in the context of specific classes.
Mid-semester evaluations, or other evaluations delivered during the length of the course, have the potential to improve end-of-semester evaluations and increase student exam performance. In addition, unlike end-of-semester evaluations, this timely feedback can be applied immediately to the course.
Students respond positively when their comments result in changes to the course, leading to improved student attitudes about the class and/or instructor (Keutzer, 1993). Unlike an end-of-semester evaluation that only has potential to change the next class for other students, a mid-semester evaluation will benefit the same students who provide the feedback (Bullock, 2003).
What Should I Do With Mid-Semester Feedback?
A mid-semester evaluation gives you feedback and reminds the students that you are interested in what and how they are learning. However, you will also want to report back to your students on the evaluation itself.
Use the following mid-semester evaluations as a basis for creating a feedback opportunity tailored specifically for your course. The first link is an anonymous survey Canvas Quiz Package. The second link is a Poll Everywhere file that you can load for use with Poll Everywhere either in your face-to-face or online course.
Mid-Semester Evaluation Examples:
The following are tips to assist you as you engage in reviewing the feedback you have received:
Consider carefully what students say. First, look over the positive things your students have said about the course. This is important because it is too easy to get consumed by the negative comments. Then read their suggestions for improvement and group them into three categories:
- Those you can change this semester (for example, the turnaround time on homework assignments)
- Those that must wait until the next time the course is offered (for example, the textbook)
- Those that you either cannot or, for pedagogical reasons, will not change (for example, the number of quizzes or tests)
Please note: For the suggestions for improvement that you determine you could change this semester, make time to be very thoughtful in how you react/respond. First, if you are going to make changes, you might consider making small, modest changes and don’t give up on a change the first time it doesn't seem successful. Tinker with it, making little adjustments, and see if it can be made successful after all.
Second, even though one student's suggestion can seem especially insightful, be careful of investing too much significance in any single response. You should be looking for patterns within the data and concentrate on the issues that seem problematic for large number of students or for a group of students with particular needs.
Try especially hard not to take it to heart if only one or two students are especially critical. Every teacher has these experiences with students at some time or other, and the reasons for their discontent could lie within themselves. The one exception is if only one or two students are brave enough to tell you that the classroom environment feels hostile or non-inclusive. This kind of feedback should always be taken seriously.
Let students know what will or will not change as a result of their feedback. Students appreciate knowing that an instructor has carefully considered what they have reported. Clarify any confusions or misunderstandings about your goals and their expectations. Then review which of their suggestions you will act upon currently, which must wait until the course is next offered, and which you will not act upon and why. Let students know what they can do as well. For example, if students report that they are often confused, invite them to ask questions more often. Also, remind them to take advantage of the office hours you provide for individual consultations and support. Keep your attitude and tone neutral; avoid being defensive, indignant, or unduly apologetic.
Select a method for responding to student feedback that works for you. You may simply discuss the results with the class as a whole. In addition, you could provide a handout of salient responses to questions or prepare a short PowerPoint presentation, complete with graphs and charts of responses. You may also decide that a summary of responses uploaded to Canvas would be an appropriate way for students to access what others have written. Whichever method you select, the most important factor in responding is to do so thoughtfully, and in a timely fashion.
Respond quickly to students' feedback. Ideally, you will want to respond to your students' comments as soon as possible. After the feedback has been received you will need time to analyze the responses, but do so in a timely manner, so that at the start of the next class you will be prepared to discuss the feedback you have received with the students. Doing so lets the students know that you have considered what they have said and it might also help students to see that not everyone in the course may feel the same way they do. It also reinforces for students that completing the evaluation forms is appreciated and valued.
Thank students for their comments. Students appreciate knowing that you care about what they say (Cornell University, 2012).
What Factors Can Influence Student Evaluations?
According to a study involving 200 faculty respondents, the following four factors were reported as significantly contributing to improvement of teaching as measured by student evaluations (McGowan & Graham, 2009):
- Engaging in active and practical learning that emphasizes the relevance of course material to students.
- Creating the opportunity for significant teacher/student interactions and conferences that allow instructors to connect with students.
- Emphasizing learning outcomes and setting high expectations.
- Revisions and improvements to how student learning is assessed.
Some of these factors, such as conferences, clarifying learning outcomes, and revising assessments could be addressed for the latter half of the course after receiving mid-semester feedback.
What Else Can I Do?
Don’t go it alone - Research has shown that reviewing student evaluation data in a follow-up consultation with someone else is more likely to result in positive modifications in teaching and course design that can influence future evaluations (Murray, 1997). We recommend contacting UNC Charlotte’s Center for Teaching and Learning to arrange an individual consultation to review and interpret student feedback.
You can also start conversations with your colleagues about how they handle difficult situations that you're struggling with. You don't have to confess that something is a problem for you; just ask them, for example, how they know whether or not students are following them or whatever else you suspect may be hard for you. Although most faculty don't seem to begin conversations on teaching very often, most of them seem happy to engage in one once you start it. It is important to discuss your thinking with a colleague or a teaching consultant before investing large chunks of your time in significant changes to your course.
Bullock, C. D. (2003). Online Collection of Midterm Student Feedback. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 95–102.
Bullock's article provides an overview of the process used by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to collect midterm student feedback for online courses.
Cornell University. (2012). Center for Teaching Excellence: Mid-semester Feedback Program. Retrieved from https://cte.cornell.edu/programs-services/faculty/mid-semester-feedback.html.
This webpage provides information and resources about the Mid-semester Feedback Program at Cornell University as well as general resources about midterm evaluation.
Keutzer, C. (1993). Midterm Evaluation of Teaching Provides Helpful Feedback to Instructors. Teaching of Psychology, 20(4), 238-240.
Keutzer's article offers resources for methods for soliciting feedback and creating midterm evaluations.
McGowan, W.R. & Graham, C.R. (2009). Factors Contributing to Improved Teaching Performance. Innovative Higher Education, 34(3), 161-171.
McGowan and Graham's article examines efforts by faculty members over a three year period to improve their courses with the use of student feedback.
Murray, H. (1997). Does evaluation of teaching lead to improvement of teaching? International Journal for Academic Development, 2(1), 8-23.
Murray's article asks the question of whether student evaluations have improved instructional quality of courses in North American colleges and universities.