Early Term Feedback on Teaching
Do you want a safe, simple way to improve your course? An early term assessment of teaching and learning (between weeks three and eight) is one of the most recommended formative approaches to improve the educational environment for your students. McGowan & Osguthorpe (2011) demonstrated that when faculty conduct early term assessments and make pedagogical adjustments, students perceive positive improvements in their learning as shown in higher teacher evaluations at the end of the semester.
If you would like assistance in collecting, interpreting, or responding to your students’ feedback, please contact us.
When collecting student feedback, you can ask broad questions about the strengths and areas for improvement in the course or more specific questions about particular aspects of the course structure or instructional approaches. Remember to focus the questions on what is helping students to learn, rather than what they like or dislike. Consider these suggestions for wording your feedback questions and read this TILT blog post on midterm student feedback that describes a "What works/What could work better" approach.
In addition, we can visit your class and collect prioritized feedback from your students using a Student Feedback Facilitation technique.
Get quality feedback
If you’ve been frustrated by the amount (or lack thereof) and vagueness of students’ comments, use these suggestions to get better quality feedback.
- Frame questions about the course or your teaching around what is helping students learn rather than what they like or dislike (e.g. they may dislike frequent homework but it’s helping them learn the course content).
- When asking students to complete the survey, emphasize that you value their feedback and will use it to make changes to the course.
- Encourage students to give you specific feedback. Offer an example. (e.g. “It’s helpful if you can be specific. If you’re finding the in-class activities helpful, tell me why. Is it discussing the concepts with your peers? The difficulty of the questions? The similarity between the activities and the homework?”)
- Give students at least 10 minutes of class time to complete the survey.
- If you would like to administer a survey online, consider offering extra credit points if, for example, 80% of the class completes it.
"Have the courage to stare that feedback in the eye. I'd rather know the truth than have to worry." - Amy Krentzman, Assistant Professor, Social Work
Allow time to review your students’ responses. Look for common themes and don’t dwell too much on individual divergent responses. You may wish to categorize comments and separate your emotional response from the actionable information. Read this TILT blog post on reviewing student evaluations of teaching for additional ideas.
Respond to feedback
"Responding has to be reciprocal, it has to be open, it has to be transparent." - Sheryl Breen, Associate Professor, POLSCI
One of the most important parts of collecting feedback is to talk with students about the feedback during the following class session. This does not need to be a comprehensive summary, but plan to take 5-10 minutes to do the following.
- Thank students for providing feedback.
- List a few of the most common strengths students listed and confirm that you’ll continue to do them.
- Tell students about changes they suggested which you are planning to undertake. Clarify with them anything that would help you implement the changes they seek.
- If the feedback contained a common suggestion that you are not going to implement, tell the students that the change will not be implemented and give rationale for your decision (e.g. “Many of you indicated that you’d like a study guide. The learning objectives for each section of the course are already listed on Canvas and can be used for exam preparation. If these aren’t meeting your needs, please let me know.”)
- When students are split on their opinion about a specific practice, it can be beneficial to explain this to the students who don't favor the practice. Oftentimes finding out that one's classmates find an approach you dislike useful, can lead to greater acceptance of the practice.
Research and resources
McGowan, W., & Osguthorpe, R. (2011). Student and faculty perceptions of effects of midcourse evaluation. In Miller, J. & Groccia, J. (Eds), To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development, 29:160-172.