Mid Semester Feedback


October 8th, 2021

two students in masks standing to the left of their professor. Their professor, also in a mask, is holding a paper reviewing school material with students.

Contributed by Jean Otsuki

The middle of the semester is a valuable time to check in with students – to solicit their feedback about how the course is going, and to reset and refocus for the remainder of the term. 

Why collect feedback?

While instructors typically receive feedback about their teaching in the form of course evaluations at the end of the semester, this feedback comes too late for instructors to address students’ concerns and to implement any changes during that particular academic term. Asking students for feedback about how the course is going at mid-semester allows you to open up a conversation with your students about their learning experience and potentially to make adjustments to instruction while the course is in session.  

How will you collect feedback?

First, decide whether you’d like to collect feedback using open-ended or targeted questions.  Open-ended questions allow students to raise issues which are foremost on their minds; targeted questions permit you to get feedback on specific aspects of the course you may be wondering about (the structure of discussion, the pacing of the deadlines, etc.).  Regardless of approach, be sure to make the feedback form anonymous and to build in class time for students to complete the form (either paper or electronic) to increase response rates.  

Explain that you are asking students for their feedback in order to support their learning.  You might also share with students what types of comments would most useful, and remind them to focus on factors within your control (i.e., meeting time likely cannot be changed).

 If you decide to collect open-ended feedback, one straightforward and useful method is “Start, Stop, Continue.”  In this approach, students will answer the following questions:

  •  What should we start doing in class that would help your learning?
  • What should we stop doing in class that impedes your learning? 
  • What should we continue doing in class that helps your learning?

As part of this reflection, it can be useful to prompt students to consider which study strategies they might start, stop, or continue.

If you decide you’d like feedback on particular aspects of the course (the way class time is spent, etc.), you could create a short questionnaire, using Google forms or Qualtrics, two BU-supported tools available to instructors.  

How will you respond to the feedback?

Take time to reflect on the responses and identify patterns and themes. Discuss 3-5 of the top issues with your students and let them know what you plan to change as a result of their feedback.  If appropriate, you might also tell them what you are not changing and why.  This is an opportunity to model how to respond to constructive feedback, and to show your students that you value their input.  

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that research has shown that teaching evaluations may be impacted by factors unconnected to the quality of instruction, such as the perceived race and gender identity of the instructor.  Teaching evaluations should thus always be considered in context and not relied upon as the sole measure of instructional effectiveness.  Nonetheless, they can offer valuable insight into the students’ experience of the course and are a useful part of any instructor’s toolkit.

Resources

Flahery, Colleen (2021, February 17). The Skinny on Teaching Evals and BiasInside Higher Ed.  

Lewis, K. G. (2001). Using Midsemester Student Feedback and Responding to It. New Directions, for Teaching and Learning, 2001(87), 33.

Payette, P., & Kendall Brown, M. (2018). Gathering Mid-semester Feedback: Three Variations to Improve Instruction. Idea Paper #67.

Reid, L. D. (2010). The role of perceived race and gender in the evaluation of college teaching on RateMyProfessors.Com. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 3(3), 137–152.