Mid-semester evaluations

Why conduct a mid-semester evaluation?

While end-of-semester evaluations provide a quantitative analysis of class instruction, they may provide little direct feedback that instructors can use to improve teaching and learning in the context of specific classes. Mid-semester evaluations have the potential to improve end-of-semester evaluations and increase student exam performance (Overall and Marsh, 1979). Further, unlike end-of-semester reports, mid-semester evaluations can be applied immediately to the course. Students respond positively when their comments result in changes to the course, leading to improved student attitudes about the class and/or instructor (Keutzer, 1993).

Unlike an end-of-semester evaluation that only has potential to change the next class for other students, a mid-semester evaluation will benefit the same students who provide the feedback (Bullock, 2003). Additionally, using a few open-ended questions on the mid-semester evaluation provides opportunities for students to comment on specific behaviors or pedagogical strategies that are not covered by the standard end-of-semester evaluation questions.

One commonly used mid-semester evaluation technique is to ask the students a variant on three questions: What works? What doesn’t work? What can we change?

Specifically, we recommend collecting anonymous responses to the following questions:

1.       What has helped you to learn in this class?

2.       What has hindered your learning in this class?

3.       What can we do to improve the learning environment?

4.    Additional Comments.

Typically, it can take 10-20 minutes to complete the evaluation depending on the size of the class and whether you allow students to discuss potential responses before completing the survey. Once responses have been collected, review the student comments and look for the themes that occur in multiple responses. Consider how you might make an accommodation to address some aspect of the more common student remarks. It is important to report back to the students regarding the evaluations. For example, at the start of the next class, an instructor might list the most common responses for each question and identify what steps they intend to take to address student comments.

A sample mid-semester evaluation form is available as a pdf document.  If you wish to provide students with an online option, one is available within the Qualtrics library, and you can use this document to modify the online form for your own use.  In order to use this online option, you will need to have a Qualitrics account through NC State.

 

Faculty Testimonials

I believe in the mid-semester formative evaluation. I actually give mine a little over a third of the way into the semester after the first test. I ask the students to evaluate my teaching approach, the course as well as themselves to make sure they are doing everything they can do to help themselves learn. Also, they are asked for suggestions that will help their learning. In many instances they admit they are not doing the reading or starting the homework too late. In one of my classes, they often say the homework is too hard or long. Even if you are not going to change, you have to address every comment. I will tell them why the homework is challenging and explain that these are the types of problems you will see when you go to work. In one instance, they mentioned they would like the homework due on Monday rather than Friday. I always gave them a weekend but it was on the front end. I thought they would put off the homework till the weekend before it was due but it turned out they would ask more questions in class on Tuesday and Thursday. My homework grades actually went up. Also, my end of course evaluation response rates have always been high. I keep a FAQ based on responses that I get from my mid-semester evaluation which is posted for the students to see as well. I keep adding to it when new comments need to be addressed.
– Jeff Joines, Associate Professor and Associate Department Head,
Textile Engineering, Chemistry, and Science

I started performing mid-semester evaluations almost 15 years ago in my engineering courses as a way to keep my finger on the pulse of each class I taught. I am convinced that each class has its own “personality” and to assume each class is the same as its predecessor (and should be treated precisely the same) is naïve. To gauge the learning style of a given class when it matters (and not at the end of the course), I provide the students with evaluations after each examination so that they can tell me how to improve their learning experience. They rate the examination, my teaching and the course. They also need to address why they didn’t perform as well as they could have and what they could have done differently in their preparation. I use the evaluations as a vehicle by which to communicate with the students why I teach the way I do and how they can maximize their learning experience. The dialogue immediately becomes two-way because I respond to all their comments and recommendations, and I provide all my feedback to them in timely fashion so that they know I care about them and want them to succeed. When I first decided to do this, I thought of it as holding up a mirror to each and every student so that (s)he could realize the origin of poor performance and do something about it before it was too late. While this purpose is still served, the mid-semester evaluations allow me to introduce substantive changes (e.g., holding an optional problem session during evening hours) into the course to benefit the students and better meet their learning needs. While this endeavor takes time, it is certainly worthwhile in the long run and creates a hospitable rapport with the students, who begin to feel less like numbers and more like young professionals who have ownership in their education.
– Rich Spontak, Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

 

References

Bullock, C.D., 2003, Online collection of midterm student feedback; New Directions for Teaching and Learning, #96, p.95-102.

Keutzer, C.S., 1993, Midterm evaluation of teaching provides helpful feedback to instructors; Teaching of Psychology, v.20, p.238-240.

Overall, J.U., and Marsh, H.W., 1979, Midterm feedback from students: Its relationship to instructional improvement and students’ cognitive and affective outcomes; Journal of Educational Psychology, v.71, #6, p.856-865.