Why collecting mid-semester feedback is worth your time and a few tips on how to do it effectively

In C-I courses, we use feedback loops to help students learn, but what about creating feedback opportunities to help us learn as teachers? Midterm is the perfect chance to elicit feedback from our students about what’s working well (and not so well) to inform our teaching practices and enhance students’ own success. As you can imagine, there are many benefits to doing a mid-semester pulse check, and some faculty even see improved end-of-semester teacher evaluations as a result. 

When we engage students in feedback about their learning experiences, we can spur incredible dialogue and interactions. This intentional process is also an opportunity to model the critical communication skills of giving and receiving constructive feedback.

Ready to get started collecting mid-semester feedback from your students? Here’s a simple model to follow.

Consider what you want to know. Identify two or three key questions that will give you the actionable data you need to inform your teaching practices. Here are few questions we often use in our classes: 

  • What is working well for you in this class? What are you struggling with? 
  • What is helping you learn? What is challenging your ability to learn? 
  • What could the instructor do to help you be more successful in this class? 
  • What could you do to improve your success in this class?

Identify a method and time that works for your class. Consider setting aside a portion of class time to encourage students to provide responses via small group feedback sessions. While this can be time-consuming, engaging in small discussions can yield high-quality results. Digital polling and online surveys are also great options. This approach allows for anonymous responses, giving students the opportunity to be more forthcoming and less fearful of retribution. Though anonymity is an asset, it can sometimes result in lower response rates, meaning your data may not be representative of all students. While we’ve labeled these as midterm sessions, you might find that a little earlier in the semester works better. Identify the best time for your own workflow by considering the questions you’re asking and what experiences students need to be able to provide quality feedback. 

Complete the loop. Feedback is most valuable when you actually implement it. Not only does this help you improve the course, but it also shows your students that their feedback matters. Consider your students’ suggestions and choose two or three action items that you can complete this semester and share your plan with your students. If you can’t take actions to students’ suggestions immediately, do take the time to share how you hope to improve the course in future semesters. This action goes a long way in modeling effective feedback practices, and it will signal to your students that you truly value their input. 

Share the “why” with your students. When asked for feedback students may say things like “no quizzes” or “fewer readings.” This gives you the opportunity to explain why these are critical components to learning in your course. If you have a small class, you can even explore the root concerns by asking students to share more about the “why” behind their suggestions.  

Want to learn more about the value of mid-semester feedback? Check out these resources:

Do you have some creative ways to solicit mid-semester feedback from your students? Please share your tips with us at cxc@lsu.edu.