Midterm Assessment of Teaching

According to research by teaching and learning scholar Lisa Lenze (2012), students are often “surprised and motivated” by instructor efforts to give them an opportunity to provide their instructor with feedback. SETs (Student Evaluation of Teaching, called SEIs, or Student Evaluation of Instruction at Ohio State) can be helpful, but provide feedback too late to implement any benefit to students currently taking your courses. Instead, give your students an opportunity to provide feedback during the semester: studies show that encouraging students to discuss their learning process improves their learning both through developing metacognition and improving the quality of their teacher’s instruction. Not only will such an approach demonstrate to students attention and concern on the part of the instructor (important for student motivation), but it will also promote the classroom as a learning community: leveraging peer-to-peer learning where students share their thoughts and observations about what helps them learn (Ambrose et al., 2010).

Midterm feedback tools can be conducted at any time (and multiple times) during the term, because the advantage to collecting midsemester feedback is that you can act on it immediately, even by the next class. There are several methods to collecting midterm feedback, including CATs (Classroom Assessment Techniques) such as minute papers, exam evaluations, or other forms of survey data collection (Angelo and Cross, 1993).

Instructional Consultations at the Drake Institute can help you formulate, devise, and implement surveys and questionnaires to gather midsemester feedback from your students. We also offer a way to collect feedback through a focus group format, a research-supported method called a Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID).

SGIDs are focus groups conducted by Drake consultants during 20 minutes of class time. With the instructor absent to allow for student anonymity, they are a way to gather rich, contextualized information about your course and your teaching. The consultant puts the students in small groups and asks them to discuss and record group answers to three questions: (1) What about the course/instructor is helping you learn? (2) What about the course/instructor is not helping you learn? and (3) What specific suggestions do you have for improving your learning? The consultant then facilitates a group discussion with the entire class to clarify and determine if there is a consensus among the students or differences of opinion. After using this information to generate a report, the instructor and consultant meet to discuss the feedback and identify constructive ways to respond to it during or after the semester. This document is shared only with the instructor (but can be a great source of data to include in a teaching portfolio) in order to facilitate a confidential discussion on how to improve the learning happening in your classroom.

Why a SGID?

A SGID provides a much fuller picture of student feedback than an SEI or other written evaluation likely would. The facilitator is able to put the students’ answers into context by asking follow-up questions and gathering illustrative examples, giving you an idea of how many class members agree with a particular piece of feedback, and explain the tone in which comments were made. Students may also help each other to put their own feedback into context by responding to one another’s comments (e.g., if one student complains about the amount of reading, others might respond that the amount is on par with what should be expected of them).

Moreover, SGIDs frequently result in better instructor-student communication and a greater sense of community in the classroom. Students are often appreciative that the instructor took the time and made an effort to ask for their feedback in a detailed manner, and in return, they respond with insightful, eloquent, and articulate answers.

If you are interested in gathering midterm student feedback, the Drake Institute can help! If you are interested in learning about minute papers, generating a survey, or pursuing a SGID, email the Drake Institute to set up an appointment with an instructional consultant to determine what would be the most useful tool for you and your class.