Mid-Term Student Feedback: What Works to Support Your Learning?

10 Oct

Mid-Term Teaching Assessment Ideas You Could Use Today

 Mid-semester assessment of learning and teaching based on the two basic questions of this blog post title –

What Works?
What Could Work Better?

– can serve as a reminder to students that as teachers we are, indeed, interested in how they are learning, as well as in how we are teaching.

The bit of preparation, class time, data entry and analysis activity, and follow up conversation with students required in conducting a mid-term assessment of teaching can easily be fold into the everyday work of developing class sessions.  The total time involved in the process needn’t be more than two hours – maybe three if you want to talk with a colleague or a consultant along the way.  The small investment of time spent asking, listening and responding can bring big rewards in the form of enhancing the classroom climate, illuminating learning practices that work, and provoking for teachers more ideas about ways of moving ahead with learning.

This post is structured to set out three starting places

* Two Minute Writing Format
a good starting place if you’ve not done this before

* Guided Discussion Format
a good starting place if you want new assessment practices

* Adaptations of the Two Modes
a good starting place if you want to focus on specific elements

And then to a wrapping up that addresses

* Benefits

* Resources to See, Read, Talk and Learn More about It


Two Minute Writing Format

Based on the quadrant grid reproduced below, create a handout (two grids per page, cut full size paper in half) or project a template to guide students (who write on an index card – plus on front, delta on back).  Share with students the purpose of the assessment, information on how to complete the forms, the amount of time you’ve allotted, and where to leave their responses as they leave the room.  Then stand outside the classroom door – out of sight but available if students have course questions as they leave the room.  Before the next class session. take time to review, summarize and plan how you will act and report on the data.



What across all aspects of the course is helping me to learn in this class? What examples can I offer of changes could be made in this course to improve learning?
What am I doing in and out of class to improve my learning in the course? What changes do I know or think I need to make to improve my learning in this course?

Guided Discussion Format

To incorporate a Guided Discussion session (also known as Student Feedback through Consensus and Small Group Instructional Diagnosis) plan to allocate the final 20 minutes of class a regularly scheduled class session to the activities noted below.

This process works best, as noted below, when teachers provide students with index cards for individual responses and a printed handout for guiding small group discussion.

Individuals Answer 3 Questions – on an index card (questions projected) or ½ sheet of paper (questions noted on paper you provide):

  • What are 2 aspects of course that enhance your learning experience?
  • What are 2 aspects of the course that – if modified or improved – could enhance your learning experience?  Focus on things that could be changed.
  • What is 1 thing you could do personally that would enhance your learning experience in the course?

Note: If you can have a colleague or graduate student who doesn’t have grading responsibilities for the course conduct this session, all the better as it removes you from the front of the room – directly in view of students as they write.

Move into Groups of 3-4 Students – with each group getting a full size sheet of paper (provided by the instructor) with room to record consensus responses:

  • Guide students to break out of usual group patterns – have them get up and move away from those they usually talk with in class to make some fresh connections for this discussion.
  • Set out the group task – to come to agreement on 3 examples of what enhances learning, on 3 examples of what could be changed in order to better the learning experience, and to rank each set of 3 choices.
  • Students do not share their individual goals.
  • Groups hand in their collective responses.  Option: have students attach group members’ cards to the sheet.

Collate, Analyze, Reflect on the Data

  • Collect information anonymously.
  • Have a colleague or member of office staff type up the group responses (and as a separate document, the individual responses if you have collect these from students).
  • Review, group/cluster the responses by trends, topics, themes – take care to bracket outlying comments, whether overly positive or negative. (The outlying comments can be moved into a second document by the person typing up comments so that the first review of comments can be focused on the substantial clusters of comments. With the “noise” of outlying comments initially bracketed or moved off to the side, teachers can focus first on trends in core data, coming back to the bracketed comments for integrating these responses into the overall picture of the course.)
  • Create a plan for sharing insights and intended actions with students.

Report on / address the responses during the next class session

  • Showcase the trends/clusters/range of responses, variety of learners;
  • Name the changes you will make, and note why;
  • Name the changes that you cannot for practical reasons make now and/or that you cannot make for pedagogical reasons, and note why; and
  • Follow this brief reporting back by asking students to review their writing about personal changes, then brainstorm a list of individual actions, attitudes, practices that could be taken to bring about change, and finally to set a goal for putting the ideas into practice.

Adaptations of the Two Modes

Do you want to focus on student learning generally – to understand when, why and how they learn best?  To understand how and what you do provide engages students in learning – or maybe what happens to provoke student disengagement?  See “Early-/Mid-Semester Assessment: Instructor Performance.” See also “Early-/Mid-Semester Critical Insights Questionnaire

Do you want to hear about teaching practices overall – to gather data about course organization? To understand how the written, verbal and visual elements of the course work to provoke or maybe muddy student learning?  See “Early-/Mid-Semester Assessment: Instructor Performance

Do you want to learn about a particular aspects of the course – assignment? new readings? barriers students have encountered? communication? classroom climate? lab and section interactions? instructional methods? feedback?  See “Item Pool – University of Iowa Course Evaluation


Timelyconsidered changes are made to impact students in your course now.

Responsivefocused attention on what and how students in class now are learning.

Comprehensivesequenced feedback at early-, mid- and end-of-term will illuminate overall development of teaching practices and trends in learning practices.

Individualized: contexted inquiry incorporates the benefits of open-ended questions with specific examples to illuminate learning and teaching at a particular time in a particular classroom.

Formative: integrated assessment plans allow for teachers to take multiple measures of teaching and learning, and to use of research skills and practices to test new assignments, readings, activities and presentations in a manner that tailored to support their continuing professional development.


Resources to See, Read, Talk and Learn More about It

 See More About It
University of Minnesota
Iowa State University

Read More About It
How Student Evaluations Can Fit Into a Holistic TA Program
Using Mid-Term Evaluations & other Sources of Student Feedback

Talk More About It
University of Minnesota, conducting an SFC with a CTL consultant
University of Minnesota, general consultations on learning and teaching

Learn More About It with Colleagues
by attending a Just in Time Teaching Workshop next Tuesday, 18 October

Using Classroom Assessment to Inform Your Teaching
12:00-1:30 p.m.
CSOM 1-143
This link will take you to the workshop registration page


3 Responses to “Mid-Term Student Feedback: What Works to Support Your Learning?”

  1. Mary jetter 11 October 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Thanks for the great resources!


  1. Reinvigorating Your Students’ Learning (and Your Teaching) at Mid Term « Techniques in Learning & Teaching - 17 October 2011

    […] Comments « What Works? What Could Work Better? […]

  2. Formative Assessment: When Students Record Their Own Learning in Small Bites | TILT - 17 February 2014

    […] Mid-Term Student Feedback: What Works to Support Your Learning? […]

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