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Using Mid-Term Evaluations to Promote Student Learning

At this time of the semester we urge faculty to administer a mid-term course evaluation. Instructors can use these evaluations to take the pulse of the class early enough in the semester to identify problems and to allow for productive changes. End-of-semester evaluations often emphasize perceived faculty “performance,” but evaluations at mid-term can provide a window into and even stimulate student learning. Forms designed especially for mid-term feedback often best illustrate this perspective. Three types of questions commonly form the core of these evaluations:

What aspects of this course and your instructor's teaching help you learn best?

What specific advice would you give to help your instructor improve your learning in this course?

What steps could you take to improve your own learning in this course?

What are the advantages to these kinds of questions compared to the ones on typical end-of-semester evaluations?

  • These questions change the focus from teacher performance to student learning. This shift can be an important one at mid-term, helping students remember that learning is a complex dynamic involving both teacher and learner.
  • These questions ask students to become more self-reflective. Helping students recognize how they learn best can spur them to be more metacognitive, that is, to think about their thinking. Research shows that the more aware students are of their cognitive processes, the more likely they are to remember what they learn.
  • These questions specifically ask students to identify their preferred study strategies, aides, and approaches and discuss how they fit within the course structure—or not. Given that research shows that most professors do not have the same learning styles as their students, these answers can help instructors understand why students struggle with certain disciplinary skills. Faculty can use evaluation responses to frame a discussion with students about how they as scholars think and learn in their field.
  • These questions also send a message that the instructor cares about student learning and how to facilitate it. Ideally, faculty not only administer mid-term evaluations but devote some time in class, precept, or lab to talk about the responses. Students appreciate this openness to their views and this commitment to their learning and often respond with renewed enthusiasm.

Mid-term evaluation forms are informal and seen only by the instructor.