Mid-Semester Feedback

Gathering Mid-Semester Feedback is a valuable way to acquire feedback on the teaching and learning strategies implemented in the course, or to collect information on how students are connecting and engaging with the course material. Feedback is a necessary component in order to make appropriate adjustments or changes to the course for the remainder of the semester. Obtaining feedback from students in an intentional manner is more important than ever in a remote instructional context where informal interactions with students after class or in the hall are not possible.

The Mid-Semester Feedback process has four steps:

Open-ended questions are recommended to allow students the space to provide detailed feedback.

This can take the form of a typical 'Start, Stop, Continue':

  • What should we Start doing to better support your learning?
  • What should we Stop doing?
  • What should we Continue doing?

or be worded more specifically towards student's perceptions of the course, including an opportunity to self-assess and take ownership over their experience and learning in the course:

  • What in the course so far has helped your learning?
  • What in the course so far has hindered your learning?
  • What suggestions do you have to improve the course so that it better supports your learning?
  • What are you doing to help yourself learn in this course?
  • What could you do to improve your learning in this course?

If facilitating mid-semester feedback in a face-to-face classroom, create a worksheet to distribute to students, or have students label a blank sheet of paper with the question numbers. Display the questions on a slide. Give students at least 10-15 minutes to respond.

If facilitating mid-semester feedback in a remote course, these questions can be incorporated into an anonymous Qualtrics survey, or with the survey feature built into CourseLink. Regardless of the platform it is important to discuss why you are looking for feedback:

  • Tell students that you value their input and want to understand their perspective. Let them know that you will use their feedback to help make decisions to support their learning and your teaching goals.
  • Let them know how you’ve acted on student feedback in the past.
  • Assure them of anonymity and explain the process.
  • Remind students what a constructive comment looks like (e.g., “Tell me why you don’t like the online quizzes, and how we can improve them to support your learning.”).

First:  Prepare yourself for negative feedback and your emotional respone

  • Before reading the feedback, honestly evaluate your own teaching and how you think the course is going.
  • Give yourself time, privacy, and mental space to digest the information.
  • Know that all faculty members receive negative feedback at some point in their careers, including those who are highly successful.
  • Know that negative comments might make you feel defensive, dismissive, embarrassed, or insulted.
  • Don’t take it personally. Most negative comments are aimed at the role you play as an instructor, not you as a human being.

Then:  Read the Feedback

  • Read the positive comments first (and more than once).
  • Discuss the comments with a trusted colleague.
  • Read them. Put them away for a day or two. Read them again.
  • Analyze the data objectively (see next step).

Organize and Analyze the responses to reveal representative attitudes

  1. Group responses by question.
  2. Track themes within each question. Use an asterisk next to a comment every time a similar response is made.
  3. Order the responses within each question by frequency.
  4. Identify patterns of positive feedback and areas for improvement.
  5. What do I do with the outliers? Ask yourself whether they provide useful information. If not, forget about them. If yes, consider inviting individual support for the student as necessary or responding with appropriate modifications to the course.

Remember to close the loop with your students. Students are more likely to be engaged if they can see that you are listening to their ideas and acting on their feedback. Plan to share feedback in the class period after the students completed the evaluation, or as soon as is practical.

  • Start by thanking them sincerely for their honest feedback and suggestions
  • Focus the feedback in three key areas to guide the conversation with your students. Be strategic about what you share. You cannot (and should not) share everything!
    • What we will modify for the rest of the semester? 
    • What I will consider changing for future semesters?
    • What we can’t or won’t change and why?
  • During this time, you can ask for clarification or bounce ideas off of them, and clear up any misunderstandings that might help them better understand the choices you have made with the course.
  • You can share your responses verbally, with a PowerPoint or handout, with charts and graphs, with sample comments, etc. It’s up to you to decide how to make this meaningful for you and your students.

Capture the feedback and changes

  • Make your insights and feedback summary available on CourseLink or some other format so absent students can access the information.
  • Keep the data and summary for future reference (e.g., to compare responses in a future semester of the course), and for documentation of your teaching.
  • Reflect on whether you would do the Mid-Semester Feedback process again the same way next time, and what changes you might make to the process.

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E-mail the Office of Teaching and Learning (otl@uoguelph.ca) with any questions related to your teaching and learning needs.