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Mid-course conversations

What are mid-course conversations?

Mid-course conversations are an alternative or additional way to get students’ feedback on their course experience. Based on the Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) technique developed by Redmond and Clark (1982), the mid-course conversation is a brief, structured discussion with students facilitated by CTL staff. The goal of the conversation is to elicit feedback on areas of strength, areas that need improving and suggestions to improve learning for students.

As with traditional mid-course evaluations, the mid-course conversations provide an opportunity for instructors to receive and act on student feedback to improve their teaching and the course.

NOTE:  The purpose of the mid-course conversation is solely for the purpose of providing instructors with feedback from their students to inform teaching practice. The results are not intended to be used to evaluate the quality of teaching. All records and information related to consultations are confidential.

Why should you consider a mid-course conversation?

One of the main benefits of the mid-course conversation is that instructors are able to get more in-depth feedback on topics that weren’t necessarily part of formal evaluations or evident in observations, such as presentation skills, classroom management, course design and policies, communication and more (Craig, 2007). The nature of the this kind of conversation allows for  the facilitator to delve deeper into areas highlighted by students to get more detailed and helpful input. 

Diamond (2004) discussed in her research that after engaging in the process of a mid-course conversation, instructors were able to get a sense of how their teaching approaches are perceived by students, which could serve to validate certain approaches while also identifying any barriers.

In her survey of faculty who had engaged in the process, Craig (2007) reported that 60% of them found the feedback more useful than end of course evaluations while an additional 32% found it equally valuable to end of course evaluations but complementary. 

When you should consider a Mid-course Conversation?

  • You wish to improve your students’ course experience and your teaching practices.

  • You are willing to set aside 30-45 minutes during one class at the midpoint of your course, ideally between weeks 4 and 6.

  • You are willing and able to make some changes, with guidance from the Teaching Consultant, to your course after receiving student feedback.

How does the mid-course conversation work?

1. The instructor contacts the CTL to request a meeting to discuss implementing the mid-course conversation.
The goal of the meeting is to provide context for the course, discuss any specific concerns the instructor has, clarify the process and prepare for the classroom visit.

2. Schedule the classroom visit.
During the initial meeting, the instructor will choose a date for the Teaching Consultant to visit the class. It’s important to note that the instructor will need to reserve a minimum of 30-45 minutes at the end of the class for the conversation to take place. Instructors must inform students of the visit, explain their reasoning for requesting this intervention and encourage their participation in advance. The instructor leaves the class after announcing the activity to the students.

3. The Teaching Consultant facilitates the mid-course conversation.
The process starts with students in small group discussions answering 3-4 questions set by the facilitator, and then each group reports their results to the class. Once all the results are presented, the facilitator will identify 3-4 common themes (such as assignments, explanations, slides, etc.) and probe deeper into each theme through a whole-class discussion.

4. The instructor and the Teaching Consultant meet to discuss the results of the conversation.
The instructor and consultant meet within a week of the classroom visit. During the meeting, the consultant provides a summary of the conversation, highlighting the 3-4 main themes that emerged. Based on these, they discuss what changes, if any, are reasonable for the instructor to implement based on the feedback and together make a plan. It may not be possible for instructors to implement all the suggestions, but they should be prepared to make multiple changes to respond to the classroom feedback.  After the meeting, the consultant provides to the instructor a report that captures the salient points of the conversation with students. 

5. The instructor shares their plan with their class
Once a plan for adjustments had been made, and the instructor is ready to implement some changes, it’s important for the instructor to report back to the class as soon as possible. It is essential that they thank students for their input and validate their feedback. The instructor should also announce which changes they will be making and which they cannot (and provide an explanation). Taking these actions can help support a positive, collaborative and constructive classroom environment.

For more information about mid-course evaluations, please contact the CTL.

Clark, D. J., & Redmond, M. V. (1982). Small group instructional diagnosis: Final report. U.S. Department of Education, National Institute of Education.

Craig, M. (2007). Facilitated student discussions for evaluating teaching. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 39(1), 190–194.

Diamond, M. R. (2004). The usefulness of structured mid-term feedback as a catalyst for change in higher education classes. Active Learning in Higher Education, 5(3), 217-231.

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