Improve Your Instructional Approach through Student Evaluation

By Denise Seguin

Midterm week is when teachers are busy updating gradebooks to report each student’s midterm grade. The focus is on identifying students who are not performing well and developing intervention strategies to help at-risk students improve and ultimately succeed.

While your focus now is mostly on your student’s success to date, have you given thought to your own success in the classroom? Midterm week presents a perfect opportunity for you to consider if your teaching methods are meeting the needs of your students. With half the term left, you still have time to adjust the pace or methods you are using that may be hindering student success.

Consider conducting a survey to show your students that you respect their time and input. A quick survey of your students can be done multiple ways. Try to make the feedback mechanism quick and easy to acquire constructive comments for you to review. Remember to keep the survey simple.

Here are a few ideas to help you develop your own survey:

  • A common technique is to ask students to provide answers to three questions on a piece of paper:
    • What has helped your learning the most?
    • What has impeded your learning?
    • What improvements would you like to see?
  • Encourage students to document their likes and requests on a folded piece of paper. On one-half the student writes what he/she likes about the course and on the other half the student is encouraged to write down something that would improve his or her experience.
  • Consider a yellow/green approach using the colors of a traffic light. Hand out sheets of yellow and green paper. Have students write on the yellow sheet anything that is causing them concern in the class. On the green sheet, have the students write what they like and want to keep doing in the class.

Consider whether the feedback should be anonymous or not. While most students would prefer that the feedback is anonymous, having students associate their name with the feedback helps keep the comments constructive. On the other hand, students may hold back if their name is on the paper. Decide the option you prefer and make it clear at the beginning of the survey.

If you teach online, develop a brief multiple-choice quiz with questions that will elicit the feedback you want using the answer options strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree. A fill-in-the-blank quiz where students type answers to questions about what they like or what they suggest would improve their learning is another good choice. Another online option is to open a discussion thread where students can type their comments.

Gathering student feedback at midterm is a way to let students know you care about their learning and that you are willing to adjust to improve the course and student outcomes. Why wait for the formal surveys at the end of the term when you can make positive changes now.

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