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Gathering Student Feedback

You may be interested in finding out how students are experiencing your course before your end-of-semester evaluations. The FDC provides a consultation service called CATALyst or you may choose to conduct assessments on your own.

You can conduct a midterm survey on your own.

You can gather feedback on a regular basis throughout the semester via CATs (Classroom Assessment Techniques). See Resources for more extensive information about CATs.

Gathering Student Feedback on Your Own

If you choose to conduct a midterm survey on your own, you may find the following information helpful. These surveys usually consist of a short list of questions, often open-ended, that focus on how students are learning in your class, not on their impressions of your performance. This focus helps in two ways. Not only do students think more about the substantive part of the class rather just what they find entertaining, they may also realize the role they have in their own learning.

Some common questions to ask students on mid-term feedback forms are:

  • Do you typically know what you are expected to do to prepare for and participate in this class? If not, please explain why not.
  • 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?

The last question is important because it reinforces the idea that your students, too, need to take responsibility for their learning.

The final step in gathering midterm feedback is to talk with your students about what you learned. Which of their suggestions can you incorporate into the class now? Which ones are not appropriate to incorporate and why? Showing students that you care about and are responsive to their perceived needs can be a powerful motivator for them. And in the process you receive feedback that can help you make mid-term changes to create a more positive class environment for student learning.


Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

A classroom assessment is a simple feedback method faculty can use to collect feedback, early and often, on how well students are learning what they are being taught. They provide faculty and students with information and insights needed to improve teaching effectiveness and learning quality in order for students to become more independent, successful learners.

Classroom assessments are formative, meaning that they are designed to improve the quality of student learning, not to provide evidence for evaluating or grading students. Formative assessments can be either formal or informal. They are helpful in “fine tuning” your courses.

Benefits for Instructors:

  • Provide short-term feedback about learning/team process while the teaching/learning relationship is still intact.
  • Provide information about student learning in less time compared to tests, papers and other formal assessments.
  • Help foster good rapport with students.
  • Encourage the view that the teaching process evolves with feedback.
  • Help faculty to focus on student learning.

Benefits for students:

  • Helps students become self-directed learners and monitors of their own learning.
  • Provides evidence that the instructor cares about learning.
  • Provides an opportunity to provide anonymous feedback to the instructor.
  • Students view it as a positive learning experience.
  • Some common classroom assessments include:

One-Minute Paper – Ask students to write a “one minute paper” at the end of class in which they summarize the main point of that session, or answer a specific question from the class.

One-Sentence Summary – Require students to write a one-sentence summary of a key idea at the end of class, or at both the beginning and end of class to see how their understanding changes. The same approach can be used by asking them to define a key term.

Two-Column List – Have students prepare a list of pros and cons or advantages and disadvantages to an idea, approach, method or decision. Or ask them to connect specific ideas to general principles, or general concepts to specific problems from a list.

Application Cards – Give students an index card, asking them to hand in a solution to a problem covered in lecture or applying an analytical technique just learned.

What’s the Principle? – Ask students to write in their own words a principle discussed in class, or ask them to distill a principle from the day’s lecture.

Muddiest Point – Ask students to write down the idea from that day’s class which they found most confusing, or pose a question that the day’s lesson raised for them. Then clarify those points or address those questions the next time you meet.

Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers by T. Angelo and P. Cross, 1993, Jossey-Bass. (Available from the FDC Lending Library.)