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Mid-Quarter Course Feedback

Gathering mid-quarter feedback helps instructors discover student perspectives on what elements of the course support their learning, what elements don’t, and how to make adjustments to the course, mid-quarter, that improve student learning.

Instructors may now gather such feedback with the Spring 2020 Mid-Quarter Course Feedback form through IASystem, UW’s course evaluation application.

Using this form is optional.

  • If you prefer using other methods for gathering mid-quarter feedback, use them instead of the Spring 2020 Mid-Quarter Course Feedback form.
  • If you don’t have a method for gathering mid-quarter feedback, or would like to try a new one, and want someone else to administer it, please contact your department’s IASystem coordinators. They can arrange for you to use the Office for Educational Assessment (OEA) Spring 2020 Mid-Quarter Course Feedback form and process.
  • The form is available for use April 13 – May 1.

The Spring 2020 Mid-Quarter Course Feedback form was collaboratively designed by OEA research scientists and UW Faculty Senate leaders. Its purpose is to allow students to share their perspectives on their learning experience with their instructors part-way through the quarter. As a result, instructors discover what elements of the course support student learning, what elements don’t, and how to make instructional changes that  improve student learning.

Mid-Quarter feedback form items

The following scaled items and open-ended prompts are formative in their orientation, mutually informative, and intended to provide instructors with actionable insights.

Scaled items: (5) Excellent (4) Very Good (3) Good (2) Fair (1) Poor (0) Very Poor

  1. My ability to engage with course concepts is:
  2. My ability to keep up with course requirements and assignments is:
  3. My instructor’s communication regarding course requirements and assignment is:
  4. My instructor’s responsiveness to student questions and concerns is:

Open-ended prompts

  1. What is helping your learning in this course?
  2. What is hindering your learning in this course?
  3. What can your instructor do to improve your learning in this course?

Student information

  1. From where are you engaging with this course this quarter? [Choosing from a list of locations/time zones]

In addition to these default items, instructors may add their own additional questions.

Obtaining the online form

The Spring 2020 Mid-Quarter Course Feedback form will be available online through OEA’s Instructional Assessment System (IASystem) at the beginning of week 3 (April 13) through the end of week 5 of the quarter (May 1). Please work with your department’s IASystem coordinators to specify the dates you want to use the form during this three-week period (typically a two to three-day window).

Reports from the Spring 2020 Mid-Quarter Course Feedback Form will be available to instructors within 24  hours of the close date selected for their course(s). Detailed instructions can be found on OEA’s Course Evaluation website.

Getting a good response rate

Adapted from OEA’s FAQ – UW Seattle

To get a helpful response rate:

  • Set aside time during synchronous class meetings to have students complete the online form.
  • Introduce the feedback process to students. In particular, stress:
    • Why you’re taking valuable class time to get their feedback
    • How you’ve used student feedback in the class to make changes to the course
    • The feedback is anonymous
    • What you plan to do with the results – how you’ll use their suggestions to support their learning.
  • Track your response rate which is sent via automated email updates and can be viewed in the IASystem faculty portal. If response rate is low, encourage students to complete the evaluation and let them know their feedback is valuable.

Interpreting the responses

This question is designed to help students self-assess their abilities in engaging with and learning the course material to this point. To address a lower rating here, consider:

  • Learning about students’ prior knowledge of the concepts (perhaps through a brief survey before introducing those concepts)
  • Finding ways to connect the new concepts to that prior knowledge
  • Giving students an outline of the course content
  • Connecting students to resources for foundational or refresher material

This question is designed to help students self-assess their ability to complete assignments, homework, reading requirements, and other course components on time. To address a lower rating here, consider:

  • Re-evaluating the amount of work you are giving students. Remember that students are juggling new online learning environments, health, caretaking, employment, and more. Is the class workload reasonable in this context?
  • Looking at your course structure again for accessibility in this learning context.
  • Working with your UW librarian to help make some of your course material more accessible to students.

To address a lower rating here, consider:

  • Posting a class announcement on Canvas to remind students of how grades will be calculated for this course. What percentage of their final grade are homework assignments, and what percentage are exams or projects?
  • Reminding students where they can find the rubric you plan to use to evaluate final papers/projects.
  • Opening a class-wide discussion board for questions and clarification from students.
  • Reminding students where they can find their current course grades on Canvas. They can also use the Canvas What-if grade function to determine what they would need to get on an exam or final project to receive their desired grade.

To address a lower rating here, consider:

  • Looking for themes in the open-ended responses. Do students say that they often wait three days or more to hear back from their instructor? Do they mention not receiving replies to emails? If so, consider expanding virtual office hours or adding a course discussion board so that students can post questions in one place (and see answers to questions they may already have).
  • If open-ended comments don’t show an actionable item to address, consider creating a poll to find out more about what students might need to address their concerns.

Reading through all of the students’ open-ended comments can feel overwhelming. As you read the responses to these questions, consider the following:

  • Read through all of the responses to Question 5 to find out what is helping students learn. Do not skip this section! Although it can be tempting to go right into students’ critiques of the class, it’s important to know what’s working well and that you should continue to do.
  • Look for themes in the responses. Make a note of points where students seem to have some consensus, and if possible, how often various points are mentioned so that you know what to prioritize. Do not focus on comments that are outliers.
  • Read responses to these questions with the scores for Questions 1-4 in mind. Consider how the two sets of questions mutually inform one another.
  • Make a plan for how you’ll talk with students about their responses (see below).

Specific points to note for each question:

Question 5: What is helping your learning in this course?

  • Identify themes, noting the percentage of students who agree that these course elements support their learning so that you can tell the class  what they say is going well–and will elements of the course will remain unchanged.

Question 6: What is hindering your learning in this course?

  • This question is designed to clue you in to any challenges that inhibit student learning.  It is likely you’ll get a wide range of responses, some you can control (e.g., weight of assignments, balance of synchronous to asynchronous teaching) and others you can’t control (e.g., balancing work-life balance while working from home with children or extended family). Challenges that are out of your control nevertheless provide added context for interpreting lower ratings for questions 1 and 2 above.
  • Note any themes on what impedes students’ learning and what, if anything, you might be able to adjust to address them. For example, if many students report having connection issues: could you share content asynchronously and/or in a way that uses lower bandwidth (e.g., audio-only files)? Could you share lecture notes with students who might not be able to stay connected on Zoom for an entire class?

Question 7: What can your instructor do to improve your learning in this course?

  • Look for themes. Try to find at least 1-3 changes you can make in response to these themes (see more below).
  • Mid-quarter feedback often surfaces misunderstandings or confusion. Sometimes clarifying an assignment or explaining why you won’t be making a recommended or implied change is responsive.

The question has been included to give you awareness of where your students are learning in Spring 2020. The sole purpose is to allow you to know the distribution of your students’ locations in relation to the UW. If you find that most of your students are not in the same time zone as Seattle, it could help explain challenges you are facing with synchronous instruction, or students’ abilities to meet with you during check-ins and office hours.

Addressing the responses with students

If your course has synchronous meetings, put aside synchronous class time to talk with the students about their feedback. (If your course meets asynchronously, post and highlight this for students–for example, consider featuring it in a video post). This communicates that you’ve taken their input seriously and can help students feel more comfortable coming to you with future questions and concerns. Consider the following:

  1. Thank the students for participating. Let them know that you’ve read and considered their feedback
  2. Emphasize the positive. Starting with what’s working well can raise morale (yours as well as that of the students) and put students at ease about aspects of the course that they don’t want you to change.
  3. Don’t try to address every concern the students raise. It’s more effective to single out  two or three of the most commonly-mentioned points and focus on those
  4. Try to identify at least one thing you can change in response to their suggestions. Thank the students for bringing it to your attention, and explain how the change will work.
  5. Explain what changes you will not be making, and why. Students might perceive that something is hindering their learning when in fact it is an essential part of it, or they might suggest something that is beyond your control. Let them know that you’ve heard them, but won’t be making that change, and why. For example:
    • “Five of you mentioned that the last exam was very challenging. However, many of you excelled at it, and if the exams were easy, you wouldn’t learn as much!”
    • “Ten of you mentioned you’d like to be learning more about [x], but that is beyond the scope of this class.”
    • “Twenty of you mentioned that you would like to have more class time over Zoom. Our class is only 50 minutes and if we went longer than this, it would disadvantage the students who have other classes or obligations then. Plus, there are students in the class who are in different time zones or have limited wifi.”
  6. Empower students to address their own concerns.  If the students are concerned about something that you can’t address, suggest strategies they can use to mitigate these concerns. For example:
    • “If you’re finding the content for our next exam challenging, please see the study guides and additional learning resources I’ve put for you on Canvas.”
    • “Your advisor might have some advice for you on courses that focus more on [x] since, in this course, we’re focused on [y.].”
    • “If you’d like to extend the conversation beyond class, post a question on our discussion board in Canvas.”
    • “Some of you mentioned that the same three students tend to participate a lot during our synchronous class discussions, while others stay silent. What’s a constructive way we can, as a group, change this?”
  7. Consider introducing the points above with your students as follows:
    • “Thank you for your feedback.”
    • “Here is what I will continue to do . . .”
    • “Here is what I will change . . .”
    • “Here is what I will not change, and the reasons why . . .”
  8. See more on using student evaluations to assess your teaching.

End-of-term feedback

Gathering mid-quarter feedback has the added bonus of improving response rates for end-of-term evaluations (Chapman, D.D. and Joines, J.A., 2017).

OEA is currently updating the distance learning feedback form as an option for instructors who are doing end-of-term course evaluations in Spring 2020.