Instructors in classes of all sizes can benefit from mid-semester feedback. Student feedback can help you identify what is helping or hindering your students’ learning, better understand your students’ experiences in class, understand their perspectives on your course and assignment design, and gather their suggestions for changes that will benefit their learning. You can also use the survey to help students develop their metacognitive skills by asking what they are doing or could be doing to help their own learning, how they plan to study for their exams, and how often they work on homework in your class. For ideas on how to word these questions, you can read our previous blog posts and webpage:
- Getting Student Feedback at Midterm (blog post)
- Mid-semester feedback in the age of COVID (blog post)
- Mid-Semester Evaluations (webpage)
This post will focus on how to ask questions that are easier to analyze and act upon by giving you the focused feedback needed to evaluate specific aspects of your course. Many instructors start with open-ended questions such as “What should we start/stop/keep doing in this course?” These are great questions for generating a wide variety of responses, but it can be daunting to pull out themes from open-ended questions, especially for those of you teaching hundreds of students and/or multiple sections of a course. You could get creative and use a word cloud generator to see if that helps you identify themes in the student responses or use tools that can process natural language and do thematic analyses for you. These approaches can be time consuming and can have a steep learning curve. Also, while our students have great ideas, they may not be sophisticated enough about teaching and learning topics yet, and so their feedback may be too varied or incomplete, making it difficult for you to use their feedback effectively. To generate more useful feedback, you can use multiple-choice questions (MCQs) that focus on specific aspects of your teaching, such as course design, to draw out responses from your students that you can act upon more easily. MCQs are faster to process which ensures that you are not overwhelmed by the data analysis process, but keep in mind that their use narrows student choices. You might still need open-ended questions to elicit the additional student feedback and of the quality you need to make changes in your class. If you need help with any of these steps, including the interpretation of student feedback, do not hesitate to contact us.
Example questions from IUB instructors of large classes
In our recent Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) focused on collecting student feedback in large classes, our participants used open-ended questions in their first semester of the FLC to help identify interventions in their course. They then used MCQs to obtain feedback from their students about these interventions. Here are example questions that might help as you plan your mid-semester feedback survey.
Questions about office hours
We often hear from instructors that students are not attending their office hours. You could ask students why they aren’t attending office hours, and what would entice them to attend.
If you are not attending office hours/student hours/help sessions, why not?
- I don’t have time to attend
- None of the hours fit my schedule
- I don’t know where these are located
- I don’t know why to attend them
- I don’t know how to prepare for office hours
- I am intimidated to attend
- I don’t need extra help
What would make office hours/student hours/help sessions more helpful to you?
- Preparing for an upcoming exam
- Co-creating a study guide
- Working through a specific problem set
- Knowing beforehand which topics will be discussed
- Being able to attend with peers/my group members
- Being able to ask specific questions
Questions about the class environment
Often instructors want to know about the student perspectives and experiences in the course. You can ask questions about student comfort level, motivation, self-confidence, etc. Here are some examples to consider. These questions use the following scale: Strongly Agree, Agree, Undecided, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. Consider asking follow-up questions so that you can pinpoint issues and identify specific suggestions to improve in these areas.
- I feel comfortable asking my instructor (or teaching assistant) questions.
- The instructor/graduate teaching assistant/teaching team in this class…
- explains concepts clearly
- explains problem-solving processes well
- treats students fairly
- cares about the students
- wants everyone to succeed academically
- I interacted more with my classmates in this course than in my other courses
- I feel comfortable asking my peers in this class questions
- Problem solving with my classmates in class and discussion sections strengthened my understanding of course content. [Ask about the specific activities, projects, teaching strategies that you use].
Learn more about mid-semester feedback
- McGowan, W., & Osguthorpe, R. (2011). Student and faculty perceptions of effects of midcourse evaluation. In Miller, J. & Groccia, J. (Eds), To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development, 29, 160-172.
- Taylor, R. L., Knorr, K., Ogrodnik, M., & Sinclair, P. (2020). Seven principles for good practice in midterm student feedback. International Journal for Academic Development, 25(4), 350–362. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2020.1762086
If you want to see more questions, you can review the questions available in the Online Course Questionnaire (OCQ). OCQs are usually administered at the end of the semester, but you can use some of these questions for your mid-semester feedback. If you would like help with writing questions or creating your surveys in Canvas or Qualtrics, contact the CITL to meet with a consultant. We can also help you with interpreting the data and identifying areas for change based on your students’ feedback. If you’d like to see examples of possible questions, visit this Canvas site and import one of the quizzes there into your own course site.