Note from the Vice Chancellor: A Case for Mid-Semester Feedback
Faculty and instructors are likely most familiar with end-of-term evaluations. While incredibly useful, they are not designed to address a need I’ve heard about from many students: the ability for an instructor to make a few tweaks or changes as a class is running.
The collection of mid-semester, formative feedback from students can be an extremely effective way to gain targeted and specific information about what aspects of the subject support their learning and which aspects hinder (or do not support) their learning.
It can be relatively quick and easy to incorporate these evaluations – which can include just three or four questions. For example:
1. What in the class so far has helped your learning the most?
2. What in the class so far has hindered your learning?
3. What can I do to improve your learning in the subject?
4. What can you do to improve your learning in the subject?
Additional guidance and templates can be found online (https://sites.google.com/view/mid-semester-feedback/). At appropriate junctures you can ask students to respond to paper-based questions in class or use digital tools (like Qualtrics) to gather feedback. Keep it simple. Be sure to make sure that student feedback is kept anonymous.
This practice offers numerous benefits for those teaching. For example, mid-semester feedback is intended solely for the instructor for the purpose of readjusting the current offering of the subject to improve student learning. It allows instructors to make considered decisions about potential changes to the subject in response to the students’ feedback – again, in real time.
Perhaps most important, the act of providing feedback to instructors prompts students to reflect on their learning in the subject, and to consider how their own behaviors in the class are impacting the learning process. This metacognition is crucial for students’ growth as learners.
Some MIT faculty and instructors already solicit and use feedback from their students throughout the semester via MUD cards, exit tickets, and/or their own mid-semester feedback surveys – and to them, I say, keep up the great work.
Finally, my office will host a lunch (likely during IAP 2020) for faculty and instructors who wish to discuss lessons learned from mid-semester feedback.
Thank you for all that you already do for our students and for being open to trying new experiments. If you would like some help getting started with mid-semester feedback, I encourage you to call upon the experts in the Teaching + Learning Lab.
Ian A. Waitz, Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate and Graduate Education and Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics