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Mid-Semester Course Evaluations

More and more faculty are finding mid-semester evaluations a valuable resource for their teaching. We at the McGraw Center would like to invite you to try this practice, if you’re not already doing so. Unlike the evaluations completed at the conclusion of a course, feedback from students midway through the semester provides information that can lead to mid-course adjustments, yielding a better experience for both instructors and students. For example, one Princeton instructor recently discovered that his students wanted more challenging problem sets than he had anticipated.

There are a number of ways to solicit feedback, the simplest being to administer a short questionnaire during class. We have prepared samples of questionnaires (drawing on examples employed at Harvard, Michigan, and Penn), that you may wish to use or adapt. Included here are an example, calling for open-ended responses and an example employing a scale for evaluation, which you can download and/or edit, to suit your own classroom needs.

As distinct from the course evaluation forms distributed and collected centrally by the Registrar's Office, these questionnaires are designed solely for your own use, to provide an additional channel of communication with your students. For that communication to be most successful, it’s important both to prepare your students briefly and to provide feedback to them. When you distribute the questionnaire, clarify for your students your intent. For most faculty, incremental adjustments are possible, but major redesign of a course is neither feasible nor appropriate. Being clear about this up front gives students reasonable expectations for the outcome. It's particularly important to talk with your students after you have compiled the results, telling them which suggestions you found helpful and are going to act upon, and which ones you feel are not feasible and why. Closing the loop in this way lets the students know that you value their input, and it can further illuminate your teaching goals and expectations for them.

Most faculty find that students whose views are solicited via mid-semester feedback feel more committed to the course, engage more actively in it, and consider themselves partners in ensuring successful outcomes for the course. If you would like further information or consultation about mid-semester feedback, please contact the McGraw Center at mcgraw@princeton.edu or 8-2575; we would be happy to work with you or provide further resources. Please let us know as well if using mid-semester evaluations has been helpful to you.