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Dear Faculty Commons,
In class the other day, I experimented with a new teaching technique and was really blown away by how much the students appreciated it (some students even came up after class saying how much they enjoyed and learned from the class activities that day). I’m going to keep on doing this, but are there good ways to figure out what techniques are really engaging my students and capture that feedback?
Frantic for Feedback
Read our response on how to gather and analyze mid-semester feedback from your students (including a template that you can copy and use!).
Dear Frantic for Feedback,
Mid-semester course evaluations are a great way to gauge how your students are meshing with your approach to teaching. Even asking a few simple questions in a survey can get your students to reflect on how they are learning in your course, and give you feedback on what is working best.
We like to use a technique called “Stop/Start/Continue” for this kind of feedback.
You will likely get the most honest feedback if you make the survey anonymous. Some instructors offer bonus points if a certain percentage of the class fills out the survey (e.g. 70% participation = +1 point on the midterm; 90% = +2).
Google forms provides an easy way to share a link with the class (and collect their responses in a spreadsheet that only you can access). Feel free to copy, tweak, and share the template we’ve provided here.
Mid-semester feedback is most useful for you, and your students, if you see their responses as data that you need to analyze and summarize. Not everything that students share with you requires immediate action, or is even something that you are in a position to act on. For example, a student may find that uncomfortable chairs or extreme temperatures are hindering their learning, but those aren’t factors that you have the power to change.
Analyzing student feedback is really about making categories out of a wide range of comments. After you’ve reviewed all of the student comments, see if you can start to group them under common headings such as “pace,” or “use of technology,” or “level of interaction.” It is very common for students to have opposite reactions about the same concept (e.g. “you are going way too slow!” “you are going way too fast!”). By thinking in global categories, you can focus on the specific aspects of your course that you would like to change, if any.
After the analysis comes the communication, and this is a crucial part of the mid-semester evaluation process. Present your “findings,” to the class– this shows them how their input is thoughtfully used to improve the course. If you feel inclined to make any changes, explain what in their feedback led you to those changes. If you will not make changes, explain how your decision was made.
To close the loop on the stop/start/continue feedback process, you’ll want to include your summarized feedback, as well as your interventions to respond to it, in your teaching portfolio. This is great evidence of continued improvement in teaching and responsiveness to student concerns, and it can provide a richer picture of your teaching than end-of-semester evaluations alone.