Center for Educational Innovation

Academic Affairs and Provost

Early Term Assessment of Teaching

Do you want a safe, simple way to improve your course? An early term assessment of teaching/learning (between Weeks 3 and 8) 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.

Ways to Gather Feedback

A teaching consultant from the Center for Educational Innovation can visit your class and collect prioritized feedback from your students using a Student Feedback through Consensus technique. Contact us via this link to request this service.

You can also collect your own feedback by asking simple questions about the strengths and areas for improvement in the course. Click here for an outline of three options for framing these questions. This link outlines a “What works/What could work better” approach that uses this template.

How to Improve the Quality of Students’ Comments

Instructors are often frustrated by the amount (or lack thereof) and vagueness of their students’ comments. The following tips can help you to get better quality feedback:

  • Frame questions about the course or your teaching around what is helping them 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 you ask students to complete the survey, emphasize that you value their feedback and will use their feedback when making adjustments to the course. In addition, encourage them to give you specific feedback; offering an example can be useful in emphasizing this point (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?”)
  • Have students complete the survey in class and allow at least ten minutes to provide feedback.
  • If you would like to administer a survey online, consider offering points for completing it. The "feedback" and "choice" activities in Moodle can be set up to award points for completing a survey while keeping the feedback anonymous.

Processing the Feedback

Allow time to review your students’ responses. Look for common themes and don’t dwell too much on individual divergent responses. It is often helpful to categorize comments and separate your emotional response from the actionable information. We’ve created this handout to assist instructors in doing this. One of our CEI consultants also wrote this post about responding to student feedback. 

Responding to the Feedback

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 a long, fully comprehensive summary, but plan to take 5-10 minutes to do the following steps.

  1. Thank students for providing feedback.
  2. List a few of the most common strengths students listed and indicate that you’ll continue to do them (assuming you are).
  3. Tell students about changes they suggested which you are planning to undertake.
  4. 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 Moodle which can be used to exam preparation. If these aren’t meeting your needs, please let me know.”)


If you would like assistance in collecting, processing, or responding to your students’ feedback, please request a consultation with CEI.


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.


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