Informal Check-Ins Throughout the Quarter
Checking in with students frequently will help you determine what’s working well in your courses so far and what small adjustments you can make. Below are some questions you can use throughout the quarter to get feedback from students. You might include these questions in a Google form or create a survey in Camino using the quiz feature (it’s possible to make the survey anonymous if you choose).
Potential check-in questions:
How are you doing this week generally?
- Not so good
Feel free to comment on what’s going on:
How are you doing this week in terms of this course?
- Not so good
How have you been finding the work you’re doing in this course? (Has the workload been manageable? Do you feel engaged with the course material?) What is working well and what could be improved?
What is working well with the course communications with me or your classmates? What could be improved?
Is there anything else you’d like me to know?
Midterm student feedback is a formative process of collecting data from students about how your course is going for them and what could be done to improve the learning experience. As the name suggests, the data collection happens in the middle of an academic term. The process is less formal than student evaluations at the end of the term.
Collecting feedback around the middle of the term allows you to make changes that benefit your students while they are still in your class. Harris and Stevens (2013, p. 537) found that "employing midterm student feedback has been found to be instrumental in informing faculty about instructional quality and improving [achievement of] student learning outcomes." Students appreciate having an opportunity to provide feedback as well.
Gathering Midterm Student Feedback: Strategies and Sample Questions
Begin with your priorities. What do you hope to learn when you ask for feedback? Design your questions so that you get "actionable" information. Do you want feedback on students' progress on particular course learning objectives or pedagogical strategies? Marx (2019) observes, "The more specific you can be, the less likely you are to hear that your class is “great” or “boring,” neither of which are easily actionable pieces of feedback."
Midterm feedback is best gathered anonymously. You can set up an anonymous survey on Camino, use a Google form, or, in face-to-face classes, you can always use paper (be sure to step out of the room while students complete their feedback forms and put them into a collection envelope).
If your class is on the smaller side (<35 or so), you might find some general open-ended questions will provide the most actionable information.
1. Three Questions (R. Marx, 2019)
- What are you having difficulty with?
- What would you change about the course if you could?
- When do you learn best in the course?
2. What's working well/What could work better?
- What is working well for you in this class to support your learning?
- Is there anything that could be changed to better support your learning in this class?
- STOP -- Describe any practice that occurs during class that detracts from your learning and you would like to see stopped.
- START -- Describe any practice that would support your learning that you would like me to start using during class.
- CONTINUE -- Describe 1-2 practices that take place during class that you would like to see continue.
4. PLUS-DELTA is another variation that can provide feedback on specfic teaching strategies or practice.
Ask about inclusion
It's important for all students to experience an inclusive class environment that affirms them as individuals and allows them to do their best learning. Here is one way you can ask students about their experiences in your class.
"I try to structure this course to create an inclusive envrionment in which all students have an opportunity to learn and feel capable of contributing. Please give me feedback on this important aspect of the course by letting me know about the ways in which you have felt included in the learning community and/or ways in which you have felt excluded from the learning community."
For larger classes, you might opt for a combination of closed-ended (where students indicate agreement/disagreement on a 5-point scale) and a couple of open-ended questions. Some examples:
- I find the format of this class (lecture, discussion, problem-solving) helpful to the way that I learn
- Small group discussions (e.g., in break-out rooms) help me understand the material better
- I find the comments on exams or other written work helpful to my understanding of the class content
- The workload in this class is appropriate (not too heavy, not too light)
- I am clear about the instructor's expectation about assignments
- The problems worked in this class help me in working other problems on my own
- The problems worked in this class help me in learning the content ideas in this class
- I feel that I learn how to solve problems more easily when I work with a group of students
Next Steps: What to Do with the Midterm Student Feedback
Now that you have your students' feedback, you'll want to make sense of the data. A simple tally sheet of what is working and what can be improved is a good way to start. Where do you see consistent patterns across students? Are there also some individual responses that you want to be sure to acknowledge? After this, you'll want to go back to your students.
- Report the results back to your students promptly and show appreciation for their thoughtful responses. You can talk about the trends you see. It may be that half the class prefers one pedagogical strategy and the other half prefer something else. This gives you the chance to share with your class why approaching things a certain way. Doing so also reminds your students that you are trying to meet the needs of many learners in your class.
- Let your students know what you will change and why you may not make other changes. This type of "transparent" teaching helps students understand your rationale and how your choices are connected to your learning goals for them.
- Build on the positive--sharing feedback with the class can be an affirming experience for all and one that opens a door for more communication.
References and Additional Resources
Duquesne University. (n.d.). Benefits, impact, and process of early course evaluations.
Harris, G.L.A. & Stevens, D.D. (2013, Summer). The value of midterm student feedback in cross-disciplinary graduate programs. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 19(3), 537-558.
Marx, R., (2019). Soliciting and utilizing mid-semester feedback. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.
Dr. Christelle Sabatier, Senior Lecturer at Santa Clara University
Dr. Rachel Stumpf, SCU Faculty Development Program Manager
October 10, 2020