Mid-Semester Feedback Surveys

Asking students to provide course feedback at mid-semester provides an opportunity to assess their learning, to think about your teaching strategies, and to consider adjustments to course content, format, and assessment.

1. Start with the basics: What would you like to know about how your course is going?

You can focus on any number of topics, ranging from students’ reactions to the content and value of course readings to whether they feel the course format enhances learning. The type(s) of information you want to collect will determine the questions that you ask. For example, do you want reactions to a particular reading or guest speaker; a documentary that you have assigned; the effectiveness of class discussions?

2. Feedback surveys can be completed in class or online.

Some instructors find in-class paper surveys yield a higher response rate, as long as students are reassured anonymity. Online survey tools like Google Forms or Qualtrics aggregate results automatically. Instructors can also create surveys within Blackboard and easily add participation or bonus points for completion, however these surveys will not be anonymous.

3. Ask for feedback that you can realistically implement.

Look for feedback that will allow you to make adjustments to course content and/or class dynamics. Asking students if they find the course textbook useful if you cannot substitute alternative readings for it may not be a good idea. Instead, consider finding out if the amount of reading is reasonable, if students would like more or less discussion, or if different opportunities to ask questions are needed.

4. Consider a combination of Likert scale and open-ended questions.

A combination of Likert scales (e.g., strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree) and short, open-ended questions can work well. Likert scales are helpful for questions relating to amount and quality of reading, class dynamics, clarity of assignments, professor’s accessibility, and opportunities to ask questions. Open-ended questions are best for specific feedback, such as finding out which topic has resonated the most with students.

5. Avoid overly broad questions that don’t provide meaningful information.

Questions such as “What do you like/dislike about the course?” may not provide enough concrete feedback. Additionally, you need to be open to making changes that necessitate your considering new ways of teaching. Avoid asking about changes that cannot or will not be implemented.

6. When reviewing the feedback you receive, look for trends and areas of concern.

Sometimes there is an obvious theme, such as highly-valued guest speakers or a particularly helpful lab session. Other times there is no consensus, a situation that may reflect the diversity of students’ individual views on teaching and learning. You will want to address any area of concern that is noted by a substantial number of students, while also being mindful of individual comments.

7. Share findings with students so they know you take their feedback seriously.

Comment in class on trends or individual responses that you feel are important to raise with the group. Issues might range from praise for (or complaints about) the reading to concerns that a small number of students tend to monopolize conversation. It is then equally important to share with students any changes in course content or dynamics you plan to make in response to their feedback.

8. Be specific about changes you are willing to make as a result of the survey.

Asking for student feedback can be an exercise in vulnerability for the faculty member but can also lead to self-reflection. Are student responses surprising or expected? What is working best? Do students understand your intentions? Follow-ups might include talking with faculty peers about their teaching strategies, rethinking course readings and assignments, observing a colleague’s class to explore different teaching styles, or having a colleague observe one of your own classes.

9. Encourage students to come to your office hours.

When you share your summary feedback with students, remind everyone that you welcome their coming to discuss specific concerns with you during office hours.

10. Consider using ‘exit cards’ for more feedback.

You can supplement a mid-semester survey with personal ‘exit cards’, which may or may not be anonymous. These ‘exits cards’ ask specific questions about student learning during a particular session and are left with the instructor at the end of the class.

Here is an example of how the exercise works.

Stephen D. Brookfield, author of Teaching for Critical Thinking: Tools and Techniques to Help Students Question Their Assumptions, uses a Critical Incident Questionnaire to ask his students

  • At what moment were you most engaged as a learner?
  • At what moment were you most distanced as a learner?
  • What action that anyone took in class did you find most helpful?
  • What action that anyone took in class did you find most confusing?
  • What surprised you most about the class?