By Judith Ross-Bernstein
“In a FUBU universe, students become the primary agents of their own learning by providing feedback and creating artifacts that emerge out of their own experience (“by us”) for their own learning benefit (“for us”).” (Silva, 2015)
Silva shares a distinctly student-centered teaching point of view, a trend in higher education that calls for shifts of focus from the teacher, to the learner. We are familiar with the FUBU-ness of active learning; teacher design experiences where students act increasingly responsible for their own learning as they generate questions, debate, discuss, and work collaboratively. In this universe, the traditional higher education sage on the stage moves to the guide on the side. And in the real world, this universe has a temporal space, it’s called mid-semester; a classic time for the faculty and student slump, and commonly a time when one mutters, “Now, can someone PLEASE show me the refresh button?”
A formative mid-semester evaluation could be just the FUBU boost the doctor ordered, a kind of refresh button. Formative evaluations like the muddiest point or the minute paper allow us to make instructional changes that impact our current students. In her Inside Higher Ed Blog, Mc Grath (2014) shines a bright light on the purpose of mid-semester evaluations.
“ I find mid-semester evaluations to be a useful way to locate potential disconnects between what I think we’re doing, and what my students think we’re doing.”
Mid-semester evaluations can be purposefully FUBU. The Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence speaks to the usefulness of mid-term evaluations.
- Student evaluations are useful tools that provide insight for modifying, planning, or re-designing a course.
- When collected mid-semester, student evaluations provide the opportunity to address issues regarding student learning while the course is in progress.
- Students may appreciate that their experiences in your course matter to you, and they respond well when they feel that their feedback is valued.
- Student evaluations of teaching are an important way to measure teaching effectiveness and document instructional development for a teaching portfolio or the peer review process.
What could the step-by step process of implementing a mid-semester evaluation look like?
- Discuss the context and rationale for implementing a mid-semester evaluation with your class. The Berkeley Center for Teaching suggests some sample language for this:
“Today, I’d like you to fill out a short mid-semester evaluation. The information you provide is just for me, and your input is extremely valuable. It helps me gauge how the course is progressing at the moment, that is, what is going well from your standpoint and whether you have any suggestions for how we might proceed for the rest of the semester. It also lets me know whether you are learning what I hope you are. I will report back to you about the results of this evaluation.”
2. Decide on the questions you would like to have answered. This is quite personal and context specific. I like to keep it simple and hand out 3×5 file cards and write two questions on the board. A) What helps you learn best in this class? B) What can help you learn better?
3. Collect the evaluation as you tell the students that you are looking forward to seeing their responses.
4. In the next class, report your findings back to the students.
Specific suggestions (adapted by Barbara Davis and Steve Tollefson from Tools for Teaching, Jossey-Bass, 2001) on how to do this are below (A-E):
A. Report back to your students on the evaluation itself. It lets students know that you have considered what they have said. It helps students to see that not everyone in the course may feel the same way they do. It reinforces for students that filling out evaluation forms thoughtfully is appreciated and valued.
B. Respond quickly to students’ feedback. Ideally, you will want to respond to your students’ comments as soon as feasible. So schedule mid-semester activities at those times during the term when you will have the opportunity to immediately review the class’s comments.
C. Carefully consider what students say. First, look over the positive things your students have said about the course. This is important because it is too easy to get swayed by negative comments. Then read their suggestions for improvement and group them into three categories:
- Those you can change this semester (for example, the turnaround time on homework assignments).
- Those that must wait until the next time the course is offered (for example, the textbook).
- Those that you either cannot or, for pedagogical reasons, will not change (for example, the number of quizzes or tests).
D. Let students know what, if anything, will change as a result of their feedback. Thank your students for their comments and invite their ongoing participation in helping you improve the course. Students appreciate knowing that an instructor has carefully considered what they have said. Clarify any confusions or misunderstandings about your goals and their expectations. Then give a brief account of which of their suggestions you will act upon this term, which must wait until the course is next offered, and which you will not act upon and why. Let students know what they can do as well. For example, if students report that they are often confused, invite them to ask questions more often. Keep your tone and attitude neutral; avoid being defensive, indignant, or unduly apologetic.
E. Select a method for responding to student feedback that works for you. Most faculty simply discuss the results with the class as a whole. Other faculty:
- provide a handout of salient responses to questions, deleting those that are clearly idiosyncratic (e.g., if there is just one comment that says “this classroom is too hot.”)
- post summary responses on their course LMS so students can see what others have written.
Regardless of the method, a thoughtful and timely mid-semester evaluation process can be a collaborative opportunity to reflect on teaching and learning to date, and has potential to reshape the learning path as you and your students head for the finish line at the end of the semester.
Ithaca College Community, please share examples of what and how you use mid-term evaluations and their impact on your teaching.
Davis, B. and Tollefson, S. (2001). Tools for Teaching. San Francisco,California: Jossey-Bass.
Silva, D. (2015). Embrace the FUBU of Teaching. The Little Orange Book. University of Texas System. Short Lessons in Excellent Teaching. Austin,Texas: University of Texas Press.
Mid-semester Evaluations Samples