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Making the Most of Mid-Semester Evaluations
The halfway point in the semester brings exams, projects, and papers for your students – plenty of opportunities for them to receive feedback about their progress in your course. The middle of the semester is also a good time for you to take the initiative to solicit some quick, informal, anonymous feedback from the students.
Why do a mid-semester evaluation, especially when the semester-end SPOTs are so comprehensive? While SPOTs help you improve the experiences of your future students, a mid-semester evaluation helps your current students. This is your opportunity to check in with your students and correct any small problems or misconceptions before they grow into larger issues. Ideally, students are bringing their concerns to your attention without you needing to survey them. However, absent a whole-class sampling, it can be hard to separate the squeaky wheel from the widespread problem.
A mid-semester evaluation is something you can do at the start of class or the start of a new unit. Ideally, it will take about 5-10 minutes to complete; you can provide a pre-printed form of your own making or students can use scratch paper. Additionally, since you control the format and questions of a mid-semester evaluation, you can tailor this to your specific needs and hunches about the progress of the course. Is the course going wonderfully? What factors are really helping the students? Is the course off to a rocky start? What would help smooth the rest of the way? The goal is to obtain helpful data from your students' perspective.
Hopefully, you are now sold on why you might want to do a mid-semester evaluation and what you might ask. You can opt to have students respond to a handful of short prompts, rank-order readings or activities, or give numerical feedback about different aspects of the course (lab, slides, movies, readings, simulations, etc.). The mechanics of asking vary, of course, depending on what sort of data you are seeking and the changes you might be able to make mid-course.. Below are some common quick instructional feedback questions that you can use to get started.
You can also remind your students that your ability to make use of any feedback is a function of the things you can change. Thus, discussions about class time, room location, individual grades, etc., probably won't result in any immediate, class-wide changes.
Last, once you've gotten all this feedback from your students, reviewed it, and decided what changes you are going to make, let the students know! Close the loop by indicating which adjustments are a result of the concerns or praise they shared with you. Doing so not only communicates that you value their input and are responsive, but will also hopefully send the signal that you'd like to continue to get their feedback about the course as it progresses.