Have you checked in with your students?

July 22nd, 2021

Image of black instructor smiling and working with a student at a desk.

Contributed by CTL staff

(2 minute read)

The middle of the semester is the prime time to check in with students, inquire about their well-being, provide support, get feedback for the course, and re-focus on priorities till the end of the semester. Our earlier News & Announcements post, “Harness the Positive Power of Feedback”, offers suggestions for how you may collect feedback, what kind of feedback you may collect, and what to do with the feedback. 

In whatever form you are checking in with your students, you would want to make sure you are providing opportunities to support your students, especially in the challenging times we are living in. Below are some suggestions for how you may support your students mid-semester:

  • One on one or  small groups for check-ins: Meeting with students allows you to not only get feedback on the course, but to check on the students’ well-being. Although some students may be more comfortable letting you know if they have certain challenges privately, some may prefer speaking in the presence of friends/classmates. You may want to allow for both individual and small group options.

  • If you are using a communication platform such as Pronto or Slack with your class, consider setting up a group on Pronto or a channel on Slack devoted to suggestions from students regarding the course. For example, you may ask students to engage in ongoing informal discussion with one another about different aspects of the course (e.g. assignment clarity, difficulty of quizzes, etc.). Make sure to let students know that you, as the instructor, do see the conversations, and will be using the feedback to address challenges that may come up. Reassure students that participation in this form of providing suggestions is voluntary, and has no impact on the students’ grades in any way.

  • In whatever format you ask for student feedback on your course, whether it’s in the form of collecting answers on a Google form, meeting up with students or asking students to have a conversation on a communication platform,  focused questions will help get the conversation started, and get you the information you need. You may want to let students know that no drastic course changes can be made in the middle of the semester (e.g., change of textbook, course site, etc). Here is a set of sample questions proposed in The eSGID Process: How to Improve Teaching and Learning in Online Graduate Courses
    • What do you like most about this course so far?
    • What do you like least about this course so far?
    • What suggestions do you have for (me) your instructor to improve your learning
      experiences in this course?
    • What might you do to improve your own learning experiences and those of other students in this course?
    • Is there anything hindering your learning in this course?

  • Provide students the opportunity to reflect on previous assignments and/or quizzes and ask questions privately or in small groups. Setting up designated drop-in sessions or group study hours where students have the opportunity to connect with you and ask their questions face to face (virtually or in-person) would help support the students in their learning and alleviate any anxiety as they complete the semester. Offering this space and time is especially valuable in challenging semesters such as the most recent ones we have had, and it allows for the building of a supportive community.

  • Offering students a chance to revise assignments based on your feedback is valuable, and is a way to support students in challenging times. Providing revision and make-up opportunities also allows students to reinforce their learning in the process. 

While a mid-semester check-in with students shows you are there as an instructor to support and guide them throughout the course, it also provides a space for reflection and prioritization for both students and instructors alike.