Collecting course feedback formally or informally in the middle of the semester is a good way of gauging students' learning and to make any necessary adjustments in your teaching while there is still time for it to be beneficial to your students.
The Center for Teaching and Learning can help full and part-time faculty collect feedback from students during a course (rather than waiting for evaluations at the end). This gives you valuable feedback at a point in the course when you still have time to respond. This kind of activity can encourage students to reflect on their own learning and shows them that their voices matter. It can also provide valuable evidence to document your teaching.
Many of you are already doing this on your own, but the CTL can also help you collect this kind of feedback. As with all CTL consultations, this service is confidential and any data collected will be returned only to you. However, you are welcome to use it in your teaching portfolio if you choose. There are a number of possible methods for collecting mid-semester feedback from your students, ranging from anonymous Blackboard surveys to in-class focus groups facilitated by the CTL.
Student Feedback Surveys (on paper or via Blackboard Learn)
For this type of feedback gathering, you can use the questions described in the focus group section, below, or you can add/create your own. One good source for questions is the question bank created by Otterbein's Institutional Effectiveness Committee as part of their proposal for a new course evaluation system. See the Otterbein Faculty Evaluations Question Bank for details.
If you write your own questions, think about what you would like to address and how to phrase your questions so that they are more likely to elicit useful feedback. For example, rather than asking students what they “like,” ask them to describe how various aspects of the course helped them learn. Whether you do this kind of evaluation on your own or through us, the CTL is always available to consult with you about the kind of information you should gather, the questions you will use, or how to review and interpret student responses.
A good way to ensure confidentiality is to use the survey tool in Blackboard. Once you know how, you might want to use surveys to gather other kinds of class data. For more information, see the Tests, Surveys, and Pools section of Blackboard's Help Web site.
Student Focus Groups
One common method of collecting feedback is through student focus groups, which are conducted by the CTL. These sessions are offered on a first-come first-served basis; ideally before the 10th week of the semester, so you have time to make any necessary changes (although this process can also be used to supplement end-of-semester evaluations). The process has three stages:
First, we discuss your class. This gives us a chance to understand not only the course, but your goals, methods, priorities, and concerns.
Then, we schedule a 20-30 minute segment of a class session when you will leave the room (to provide anonymity for students) and the focus group discussion will be held. The facilitator will then introduce the activity, clarifying for students that this is something their teacher is doing because s/he wants to hear from students and wants to be the best teacher possible. We also make clear that all feedback will go to the teacher and no one else. Students form small groups (or, in very small classes, work individually) to answer the following questions:
Students take 10 minutes to write their responses. Then, we conduct a class discussion with the whole class. They offer their top responses to each question and we check to see if there is a consensus among the students. We may also ask them to elaborate further or give examples to explain their comments. We also take notes about this discussion, which we will share with you.
After a few days, we meet again. We give you a typed report with the students’ written feedback and our notes from the discussion. We analyze and interpret the feedback together and strategize possible ways to respond. Sometimes, that response is making changes; sometimes, it is clarifying expectations, and very often it is thanking students for confirming that what you're doing is working.