The following is a message from Leslie Richardson, Director of the FSU Center for the Advancement of Teaching
Thank you for taking the time to administer this midterm evaluation to your students. Soliciting feedback may be daunting, but your courage and dedication to your students’ learning will bring many benefits.
There are three versions of this survey. One consists of 12 Likert-scale questions and three open-ended questions; the second is only the Likert-scale questions; and the third is only the open-ended questions. Each is intended to give you insight into students’ learning experiences in the course so far, but the surveys do not explicitly address their levels of satisfaction.
Genuine learning requires goal-directed practice, coupled with well-targeted feedback; so the Likert-scale questions ask students how well they understand the course’s learning goals, how much progress they feel they’re making, and the usefulness of feedback they’ve received. Students are also asked about their own levels of preparation, and their participation. The open-ended questions simply ask students to explain what aspects of the course contribute to learning, or hinder learning, and what could be adjusted to improve their learning. Their responses will give you the opportunity to examine your course from a student perspective: this novel experience is essential for building more effective learning opportunities.
It is essential that you “close the loop” and respond to students’ suggestions, to demonstrate that the process has been undertaken in good faith. Although you may need some time to process the responses, it is important to respond fairly quickly. First, please try not to feel any responses (whether great or not) personally. Most of us tend to pay disproportionate attention to negative comments, but this is not useful, and is also an example of cognitive bias. You will need to eliminate outliers, and look for the important trends and patterns. For example, if many students “disagree” that the exams and projects accurately measure their learning, you may want to devise better assessments, or help students see how the assignments both promote their learning and measure their progress. When you’re responding to student suggestions, you will of course not be able to accommodate every request—no need to cancel class on Friday just because students don’t like it, for example—but it’s important to discuss the major suggestions with them, explaining what you’re able to change, and why you’re not able to adjust other aspects of the course (like the grading scheme, for instance. You might not feel able to add more quizzes, but you could offer ungraded, formative quizzes, to help students understand how they’re doing.)
Students will appreciate the opportunity to share their input, and to affect the way the course proceeds for the rest of the semester. They will feel more invested in the course, and in you, having felt heard. Faculty frequently find that their students are more engaged after midterm evaluations, and final student evaluations tend to be higher. If you share changes you plan to make in future semesters based on their feedback, students will also feel pleased to have helped improve the learning experience for the next class.
If you’d like any assistance in interpreting the results of the survey, or designing changes in your present and future courses, we’re happy to help. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you again for your dedication to your students and their learning!
The Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT)