Why wait until the end of the semester to get feedback about your teaching from students? Does this timing help the students? These questions are partly why I like to give my students a mid-term course evaluation.
How I do it
After the first test, I give some sort of survey about the class, how it’s going, and especially what teaching methods are working for students. I like to ask the latter because some students learn in different way. I would like to help them too, if my instruction methods are not currently helpful. After I go over the results, I comment in class about the evaluations and what may or may not change due to them.
- It communicates to the students that I want to hear from them. The class can be more like a dialogue than a lecture, and I want my students to feel like they can talk to me about problems in the class. Inviting them to do so with a course evaluation is a nice tool that sometimes help establish communication and encourage student engagement.
- I can learn that I may need to help students whose learning needs are not being met, and how they think I can help them. The latter part is crucial. Hopefully, students know what helps them learn the best and they can share this with you.
- It can be positive reinforcement from the students about your teaching methods.
- You can ask exactly what questions you want to ask. At the end of the term, the course evaluation questions are usually chosen by other people, but you can choose what and how to ask things in a mid-term course evaluation. This is a great way to ask about things about which you are uncertain or anxious, like a new teaching practice. When I first started making YouTube videos for my students, the mid-term evals were a useful way to make me know they found these videos helpful.
- The answers may be hard to interpret. Last spring, I am pretty sure that my students answered with what activities they enjoyed the most even though I asked about what activities helped them learn the most. Even though the answers may have been to a different question, I learned something valuable: what they enjoyed. If they enjoy something, they will be more engaged.
- The midterm course evaluation implies that you will change your teaching methods. If you are not prepared to change at least some of your teaching methods, perhaps this is not a good idea for you. Of course, in the past, I have used the opportunity of the course evaluations to explain the pedagogical value of an activity or why it’s necessary for the course. For example, some students may not like reading ancient literature, but we cannot avoid it in a literature in translation course. You can mitigate this downside by asking questions only about the aspects you’re willing to change. For example, I asked how much time students spent on homework to gauge how much more or how much less homework to assign.
What other benefits or drawbacks of this practice do you see or have you experienced?