Collecting Course Feedback

When Drafting Your Questions

Consider a specific teaching context you are familiar with from your discipline: e.g. a course you have taught or TAed before.

Here is a useful activity you can use to begin drafting questions for student feedback:

First, name the specific teaching context (e.g. course name or brief description).

For each of the following assessment categories, draft one or two specific questions you could ask to assess that aspect of your teaching or course. For the purposes of this activity, try to identify a specific element that you would want to assess in your mid-course feedback.

(“What aspects of this course/instruction enhance your learning?”)

  1. E.g., “In what way have in-class group discussions aided your understanding of the readings?”
  2. _______________________________________
  3. _______________________________________
  4. _______________________________________

(“What aspects of this course/instruction could be improved?”)

  1. E.g., “Are there any aspects of the writing assignments that you would change? If so, why?”
  2. ____________________________________________
  3. ____________________________________________
  4. ____________________________________________

(“What could you as a student do to improve your or others’ learning experience in the course?”

  1. E.g., “What could you change about your preparation for class that would improve the quality of our small-group discussions?”
  2. _____________________________________________
  3. _____________________________________________
  4. _____________________________________________

When Collecting Feedback

  • Explain why you’re collecting this feedback and how it will be used.
  • Provide your students with an example or model of useful feedback.
  • Ask questions that assess what happens in the classroom (rather than assessing you).
  • Give students ample time to provide thoughtful feedback (whether in or outside of class).

When Interpreting Student Responses

  • Give yourself time and emotional space to read the responses (i.e. not before class).
  • Keep in mind that students are responding with their perception and experience of the classroom.
  • Remember that “negative” comments can be useful; complaints don’t necessarily mean a course is going poorly.
  • Divide the issues raised by students into actionable and non-actionable items: what things can be changed or addressed by the end of the term vs. what things can be addressed in a future version of the course.
  • Remember that small changes can have big effects.

Here is a useful framework for identifying and responding to emergent themes:

  • Theme
  • Description
  • Summary of Responses
  • Actionable or Not Actionable (before end-of-term)
  • How could this theme be addressed in the in-class debriefing? Could small changes be made?

When Responding in Class

  • Always debrief the results of this feedback with your students.
  • Avoid defensive or reactionary justifications.
  • Summarize their feedback as a group.
  • Be selective. Don’t cover every comment.
  • If there are confusing responses, ask for clarification from the class.
  • Acknowledge if students have identified shortcomings or successes you also recognize.
  • Note particularly useful comments without betraying their anonymity.
  • Explain how and what changes you’re making (or not making) based on this feedback.

References and Further Resources

Mid-course Feedback

Cook-Sather, A. (2009). From traditional accountability to shared responsibility: the benefits and challenges of student consultants gathering midcourse feedback in college classrooms. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34(2), 231-241.

Dangel, H. & Lindsay, P. (2014). What are our students (really) telling us. Journal of Faculty Development, 28(2), 27-33.

Diamond, M. R. (2004). The usefulness of structured mid-term feedback as a catalyst for change in higher education classes. Active Learning in Higher Education, 5(3), 217-231.

Gregor-Greenleaf, E., Gravestock, P., & Burnett, M. (2008). Gathering Formative Feedback with Mid-Course Evaluations. Office of Teaching Advancement, University of Toronto.

Holt, M. E., & Moore, A. B. (1992). Checking Halfway: The Value of Midterm Course Evaluation. Evaluation Practice, 13(1), 47-50.

Keutzer, C. S. (1993). Midterm Evaluation of Teaching Provides Helpful Feedback to Instructors. Teaching of Psychology, 20(4), 238-40.

Lewis, K. G. (2001). Using Midsemester Student Feedback and Responding to It. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 87, 33-44.

Roberts, R. M. (2011). Examining the Consistency of Students’ Evaluations of Teaching at Different Times during One Semester. Journal of Faculty Development, 25(3), 21-26.

Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs)

Gravestock, P. & Gregor-Greenleaf, E. (2008). Student Course Evaluations: Research, Models and Trends. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Ory, J.C. (2001). Faculty thoughts and concerns about student ratings. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 87, 3-15.

Rando, W. (2001). Writing Teaching Assessment Questions for Precision and Reflection. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 87, 77-83.

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