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Mid-course evaluations

A mid-course evaluation is an effective way to receive feedback on your course and teaching from students at the mid-point of the term. Typically, an anonymous survey is used. The purpose is to determine what is working well and what changes you can make to help students succeed in your course.

Why do mid-course evaluations?

Woman filling in course evaluation

The main goal of the mid-term evaluation is to get feedback on your course and teaching, and in doing so, the outcome should be specific changes or adjustments to teaching in the current course. While it may not be reasonable to expect major shifts in pedagogy or assessment, instructors can still make meaningful changes to their courses based on students' needs.

Benefits of mid-course evaluations

Here are some of the benefits of doing mid-course evaluations:

  • the opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to students and that you value their feedback
  • the opportunity to reflect on your own teaching by examining your strengths and areas for improvement as identified by students
  • the opportunity to get feedback from students of different experiences and backgrounds in order to be as inclusive as possible
  • the opportunity to explain your instructional choices to students

Student want to share feedback

Another important reason to do mid-term evaluations is because students want to give you feedback. The 2019 Concordia Student Union Annual Undergraduate Survey Report showed that  84% of students surveyed wanted their instructors to implement mid-term evaluations.

What do mid-course evaluations look like?

Typically, mid-course evaluations are implemented using an anonymous paper-based or electronic survey with qualitative and/or quantitative questions. The kinds of questions you ask will depend on which specific areas the you would like feedback. Hoever, whichever questions you choose to ask, be prepared to make changes or justify your strategies to students.

Below are some examples of some different approaches for soliciting mid-course feedback.

1. Minute paper

A Minute Paper is a technique commonly used to asses student learning at the end of a lesson. However, it can be a useful tool in collecting different kinds of feedback from students.  The goal of a minute paper is to get students to answer one or two pre-determined question(s) that they can answer in one minute. The advantage of this technique is that it requires little preparation and can be used multiple times throughout the term. It is usually done in-person at the end of a class. (but it is also possible to administer this online). The instructor writes the question(s) on board and asks students to write the answers anonymously on a piece of paper and hand it in as they are leaving.  Using this technique, instructors can determine where they need to spend more time in future lessons and rethink their instruction on points that were muddy for students.  However, you can also use this method to ask more explicit questions to collect feedback on the course.

Here are some suggestions for questions that could be used in a Minute paper for the purposes of collecting feedback at the mid-course point:

  • What course concept or idea are you struggling with?
  • What challenges have you had in this course?/What is the most challenging thing about this course?What is one thing I could do to help you succeed in this course?
  • What is one suggestion you have to make this course better?
  • What hinders my learning in this course?
  • What helps my learning in this course?
  • Which assignments/activites have been most/least helpful in your learning?

2. Start/stop/continue

This method asks students to give one example of something that:

  1. you should consider stopping 
  2. you should consider starting 
  3. you should continue doing

You can asks students to answer these in general terms or in relation to a specific aspect of the course (e.g. class time, assignments, etc.).

3. Survey

A survey/questionnaire is also a very helpful way of collecting feedback from students, especially because you can focus on specific aspects of the course and ask more precise questions. For example, you might want to ask questions related to different aspects of the course, such as:

  • the organization of the course
  • how challenging the content is
  • how well you explain course content
  • the organization & pace of the lectures
  • the course text & other readings
  • the course Web site (i.e. Moodle)
  • the usefulness & frequency of feedback they receive

In general, it is advised to keep the survey short so that it takes no longer than about 5 minutes for students to complete. 

The kinds of questions you ask in you rminute paper or survey will depend on which specific areas you would like to concentrate your feedback. Gathering Formative Feedback through Mid-semester Evaluations (pp. 4-7 ) from the National University of Signapore offiers excellent examples of different questions you can use depending on the type of feedback you are seeking.

Below are some example questions from the above guide to assist you in developing your survey.

Open-ended questions

  • What is the most important/valuable thing you have learned in this course so far?
  • What is the least important/valuable thing you have learned?
  • What concepts or ideas in this course do you feel you do not fully understand?
  • What suggestion(s) can you make that would enhance your learning experience in this class?
  • What I really like about this course is:
  • What I really dislike about this course is:
  • In what ways is the format of the class helpful or detrimental to your learning experience?
  • What is helping you to learn in this class?
  • Describe what you believe to be the most important idea or skill you have learned from this course so far
  • How many hours a week, on average, do you spend on this course?
  • What do you feel about the organization and presentation of course materials.
  • Are you able to make evident the connections between different elements of the course (e.g., lectures, readings, labs, assignments)?
  • Do the lectures help you learn? Why or why not?
  • Do the class and/or online activities help you learn? Why or why not?
  • Do you feel comfortable asking questions in class? Why or why not?
  • Are you comfortable in sharing opinions or asking questions in class? Explain.
  • What do you think is the purpose of our tutorials?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the tutorials?
  • How could tutorials be made more helpful for your progress?
  • What concepts or ideas in this course do you feel you do not fully understand?
  • Describe the positive and challenging aspects of completing your final assignment.
  • Describe how your classmates are contributing to your learning in this course.
  • Which topic have you found the most difficult so far? What do you think made it difficult?
  • Did you find the assignments relevant/interesting/challenging? Why or Why not?
  • Are the assignment/lab experiment procedures clearly explained

Likert Scale questions

Related to student experience

  • I am developing the skills I need in this class.
  • I understand the material in this class.
  • I can apply what I’ve learned in this class to new situations.

Related to course in general

  • I find the class very difficult.
  • I find this course challenging.
  • I feel that this class format engages my interest.
  • I find that this class stimulates my interest in reading about this subject outside of class.
  • The design/structure/pacing/navigation of the course supports my understanding of material.

Related to learning activities

  • I feel comfortable sharing my opinions, questions, and ideas in class/tutorials.
  • I learn better when the instructor summarises key ideas from a class session.
  • I find the comments on the written work helpful to my understanding of the class content.
  • Lectures are clear and organized.
  • I feel that class discussions help me in understanding the readings.
  • The activities, materials, and assessments are interesting and engaging.
  • The out-of-class assignments are helping me learn and prepare for the exams and tests.
  • There are sufficient opportunities to practice and get feedback on what I am learning.
  • The assessments match what we are being asked to learn.
  • The instructions for completing assignments are clear.

Related to experience with the instructor

  • The instructor is approachable.
  • I feel comfortable approaching the instructor with questions or comments.
  • The instructor motivates me to learn.
  • The feedback I am getting from the instructor is helping me learn.
  • The feedback I am getting from the TA is helping me learn.

For more information on Developing mid-course surveys, please refer to the following resources.

How to implement a mid-course survey

1. Determine what questions you want to ask and determine if you will implement a paper-based or online survey.

An in-class paper-based will yield a high response rate but will require you to collate the data manualy. You can create your own survey in Moodle (using the Feedback Activity) and administer it anonymously at your convenience. Ready-made templates are available in Moodle to use as a starting point for your Mid-Course Survey.

2. Collate & review the data.

It's good practice to show students the results of the survey, so it's important to organize it in a way that will be easily digested. Based on the results, determine what changes you will make to the course.

3. Present the results to the class.

Tell students what changes you will make to the class, and explain why you will not make other particular changes. For example, if many students say there are too many readings, you may explain that each of the readings has been carefully selected to cover a critical aspect of the course and to cut any would diminish the rigour of the course.

4. Implement the changes as promised.

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