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 Midterm CATALyst or you may choose to conduct a midterm assessment on your own.
You may also find it useful to conduct less formalized, more regular check-in’s by using Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs). These CATs can help you determine how much students are learning without the burden of additional grading.
The Classroom Assessment for Teaching And Learning, or CATALyst Process, is a consultation service provided by the FDC to all UMBC instructors at the instructor’s request. The process helps faculty gather student feedback about a course while it is still in progress. That way, instructors have the opportunity to intervene, if necessary, to address any smaller issues before they become end-of-semester problems. The CATALyst is a completely voluntary, formative and confidential process.
What is the CATALyst Process?
To be effective, the CATALyst should be conducted at midterm, sometime between the 5th and 9th week of the semester. That way, there is still enough time for instructors to make changes if they wish. Here is how it works:
- The instructor requests a CATALyst, and an FDC consultant contacts the instructor to answer questions and arrange for a class meeting and follow-up consultation.
- On the chosen day, the FDC consultant arrives at the beginning of class. The instructor should plan to introduce the consultant before leaving the room.
- Over the next 20 minutes or so, the students, led by the FDC consultant, work in small groups to answer questions about what is working well in the class and what, if anything, could be improved.
- When the assessment is over, the instructor returns to finish teaching class.
- The consultant analyzes the data and completes a report for the instructor. Then they meet in a post-CATALyst consultation to discuss the students’ feedback and ways to address any issues that may have arisen.
A midterm classroom assessment can catalyze…
- New ways of thinking about a course based on real evidence of student perceptions
- Improved rapport with students who appreciate being asked for their opinions
- Reflection on teaching through discussion of student feedback with an experienced teaching consultant
- Changes in students’ perspectives of their role in the classroom through peer-to-peer discussion
The CATALyst process is entirely confidential, for both you and your students.
Please visit this page for an updated request form and more information about how the FDC can help you gather online feedback from your students during the COVID-19 pandemic. To find out more, contact the FDC.
All FDC consultations are confidential.
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.