Gathering Formative Feedback with Mid-Course Evaluations
1. INTRODUCTION TO MID-COURSE EVALUATIONS
Mid-course evaluations are generally informal, qualitative evaluations (but can include quantitative questions) created and administered by the instructor sometime near or shortly before the mid-point of the course. These evaluations may address actions, expectations, or challenges of the instructor and students, as well as the structure, workload, and activities of the course itself. The evaluations may be used to make adjustments or modifications to the course that will affect the rest of the semester, or future revisions of the course.
Mid-course evaluations are also an important communication device between students and instructors, and allow for a substantive discussion of performance and objectives on the part of both students and instructors. This discussion can be a rich source of information that can supplement end- of-course evaluations, and provide an opportunity to make improvements prior to the end of a course.
This guide will help you design, conduct, and evaluate mid-course evaluations. The information in this guide can also be used to help TAs to conduct mid-course evaluations.
*** Special Note ***
For instructors in divisions at the University of Toronto where courses are evaluated at the end of term through the centrally-coordinated online course evaluation system, please note the following key considerations.
- Inform your students of the purposes for collecting both mid-course feedback and end-of-term evaluation data and explain that both processes are equally important; if possible/appropriate, explain how the information collected through both processes might differ.
- Take care to not over-survey your students if they will also be completing an online end-of-course evaluation (i.e., ensure you consider the volume/frequency of mid-course feedback you are seeking in light of the end-of-course evaluation process).
- Consider asking for different kinds of information via the mid-course evaluation than what is gathered at the end of the course, or…
- Consider aligning the questions you ask mid-course with the items/categories that will appear on the online questionnaire at the end of the course – doing so can enable you to receive formative feedback early on related to key course elements that students will later rate upon completion of the course.
- Consider posing an open-ended, formative question that will provide information for action.
1.1 MODELS OF MID-COURSE EVALUATIONS
Mid-course evaluations range from very informal, broad and brief to specific and structured. There are three common models of mid-course evaluations:
- One-minute papers: These evaluations give students one-minute (or slightly longer) to note any responses to the course thus far. Students might provide information including positive and negative experiences; “muddy points”, or unclear concepts; responses to particular class activities or assignments; or comments on the instructor’s teaching (see Angelo & Cross, 1993).
- Stop/start/continue: These evaluations ask students to respond to the course based on three categories: “start” asks students to identify things that they would like to see in the course; “stop” things that are happening but are not contributing to or are detracting from student learning; and “continue” things that students believe are beneficial components of the course (see “Getting Feedback from Students,” Boston University, Centre for Teaching and Learning, Hoon et al., 2015).
- Structured evaluations with course-specific questions: These evaluations include a brief number of questions (2-3 questions). These evaluations questions ask students to respond to specific aspects of the course, their own learning activities, or the instructor’s teaching.
While all types of evaluations can be valuable depending on your evaluation goals, we particularly recommend structured, specific evaluations. These evaluations allow students to provide the most substantive, constructive feedback, and from them you can readily identify possible adaptations to teaching behaviours or course components.
While most sections of this guide (in particular, Sections 3 through 5) apply to all models of mid-course evaluations, Section 2 primarily addresses developing questions for these structured, course-specific evaluations.
Steps to Creating, Administering, Evaluating, and Implementing the Results of Mid-Course Evaluations
- Develop goals for your evaluation.
- Create evaluation questions based on your identified goals.
- Introduce evaluations to students and help them understand how to provide constructive responses.
- Provide students with the right conditions and sufficient time to successfully complete the evaluations.
- Evaluate and and summarize evaluation responses; identify possible courses of action.
- Discuss evaluation results with students.
- Use evaluations to make small changes to your current course or to plan for more substantial changes in upcoming semesters.
- Use evaluation results as part of your ongoing teaching improvement.
1.1 HOW ARE MID-COURSE EVALUATIONS DIFFERENT FROM END-OF-SEMESTER EVALUATIONS?
- Mid-course evaluations are formative. That is, they are used for improvement purposes only. Mid- course evaluations are meant only for the instructor and the students, and are not used as a formal mode of assessing instruction.
- Mid-course evaluations should be discussed with students, while end-of-course evaluations often provide only one-way communication.
- Because of these characteristics, mid-course evaluations most usefully ask open-ended and qualitative questions about the course, instead of the more formal and quantitative questions often employed at the end-of-semester.
1.2 WHY CONDUCT MID-COURSE EVALUATIONS?
- Mid-course evaluations can support teaching effectiveness
Please see Section 5.3 for tips on incorporating mid-course evaluations into your ongoing teaching development.
- Mid-course evaluations increase student engagement
Please see Section 3.4 for information on helping students understand the use and value of evaluations.
- Mid-course evaluations offer an opportunity to reinforce the priorities and goals of the course
Please see Section 5.I for recommendations about discussing evaluation results with students.
- Mid-course evaluations allow the instructor to make minor changes to the course while it is still ongoing
Please see Section 5.2 for tips on implementing the results of mid-course evaluations.
- Mid-course evaluations can help you provide feedback for your teaching assistants
For details on adapting mid-course evaluations for TAs, please see Appendix F.
- Mid-course evaluations can increase the value of end-of-semester evaluations and provide you with formative feedback that can help improve end of course ratings
The communicative nature of mid-course evaluations helps students understand how their comments on evaluations are used and incorporated into class design. In effect, they offer training for the more common end-of-semester evaluations, and help students see such evaluations as constructive and reciprocal.