While end-of-term evaluations are key for institutional accountability, mid-semester feedback allows instructors to improve their courses midstream, and make teaching adjustments specific to the particular needs and desires of current students. In addition, mid-semester feedback generally produces better quality feedback than end-of-term evaluations, since students have a shared stake in the results and instructors can seek clarification on confusing responses.
Yale undergraduate students have indicated that they understand these benefits and welcome more mid-semester feedback opportunities in their courses. The Yale Daily News reports that Yale College students want their instructors to conduct mid-semester feedback, and prefer that opportunities for feedback occur before the first significant graded assessment. Similarly, the Yale College Council released a 2015 report wherein a majority of Yale College STEM majors supported the institutionalization of mid-semester feedback to improve teaching in STEM courses.
Instructors can consider working with a Poorvu Center staff member to customize mid-semester feedback exercises that best fit their needs:
- Students assessing the instructor’s teaching
- Students assessing their own learning
- peer or self-solicited feedback based on clear criteria provided by the instructor
- ungraded online quizzes
- self-reflective knowledge surveys or journaling assignments
- Student-instructor co-designed assessments
- students and instructors work together to create the questions, pick the format, and analyze evaluation results
- a creative and more radical way to empower student voices and actively engage students as respondents, researchers, and learners
- Choose the right questions - Instructors should consider what are the most important two to three aspects of class they really want to know more about. The Poorvu Center has developed four core questions instructors can use:
- What is working well for you in this class? What are you struggling with?
- What is helping you learn? What is not working?
- What could the instructor change to improve your learning experience in this class?
- What could you do differently to improve your learning experience in this class?
- Choose the appropriate methods - Instructors should consider what form of mid-semester feedback is best. Various approaches will offer different data for instructors’ pedagogical goals. For instance, small group feedback sessions yield high quality results, but take 20 minutes of class time. Conversely, anonymous online surveys take less time, but may be less thorough or reliable. In-class discussions or one-on-one meetings with the instructor are generally beneficial for assessing student learning, but may inhibit students’ freedom to give instructors honest feedback.
- Choose the best time - Instructors should try to schedule mid-semester feedback before the first significant graded midterm assignment; this gives students a chance to specify areas and ways in which they feel underprepared before they are formally assessed.
- Follow up with students regarding their feedback - Instructors should keep in mind that asking for feedback without following up can hurt class, since it suggests to students that their opinions might not matter. Instead, instructors can clarify any confusions or misunderstandings with students about their feedback, explain their intended plans for utilizing the feedback, and thank students for their honesty, inviting them to continue working with the instructor to improve the course.
To help make the most of this teaching tool, the Yale Poorvu Center helps instructors collect, interpret, and respond to mid-semester feedback data. Some specific Poorvu Center services include the following:
- organizing in-person course evaluations through small group feedback sessions (SGFS) (without the instructor present) and/or classroom observations
- providing sample questions for evaluation surveys and instructions for creating anonymous online surveys
- analyzing evaluation data in a confidential written report
- arranging in-person consultations to interpret results and plan possible responses
Theall M and Franklin JL. (2010). Assessing Teaching Practices and Effectiveness for Formative Purposes. A Guide to Faculty Development Second Edition. Jossey Bass.
Cook-Sather A. (2009). From Traditional Accountability to Shared Responsibility: The Benefits and Challenges of Student Consultants Gathering Midcourse Feedback in College Classrooms. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 34: 231-24.
Ye, Joey. “YCC proposes midterm evaluations for new professors.” Yale Daily News. 26 January 2015.