Conducting a Midterm Evaluation
Our students can provide valuable feedback on the teaching and learning that take place in our classrooms. End-of-semester evaluations tend to summarize students’ overall responses to the class, but by that point it’s too late for their input to assist you in making adjustments to your teaching in the current semester. Midterm evaluations, on the other hand, provide feedback from the students’ perspective while you still have time to address their concerns.
Assembling a Midterm Evaluation Form
You might ask two simple questions (to which students provide anonymous answers): What are we doing in section that is helping you learn? What might we change about section so that it becomes more useful to you? This makes the assessment more about the students than about you, which is appropriate. You might also go beyond the two-question format and ask students to give you input on aspects of your teaching. The following links bring up three survey forms that vary from simple to complex:
Your faculty member or pedagogy instructor may already have a preferred midterm evaluation form for you to use. Double-check with your department.
If you know students’ handwriting, you might recreate one of the above survey forms in an online survey tool such as SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang. Or you could pair up with another GSI teaching in the course and type up the results for each other’s section so that you don’t connect students with their handwriting. You need to assure students that you will protect their anonymity so that they know their comments won’t affect their grades.
Administering the Midterm Evaluation
Make sure that students know they are giving input about your section, not the entire course. They should not be evaluating the professor or elements of the course that are not under your authority. Don’t ask for input the day you give back midterm exams; responses might be affected by the grades students receive.
Some first-time GSIs feel vulnerable doing a mid-semester evaluation. Try to approach it as a way to find out about student learning rather than as a referendum on you as a teacher — this will make it less daunting and keep the exercise on target. Tell your students you are interested in hearing how the section is going from their perspective. You want to make section meetings as useful as possible, so you would like to give them a chance to give input on the section.
Give the students ten minutes or so at the end of the class to fill out the evaluation survey. Leave the room while they are doing so. Recruit a student volunteer to collect the forms and drop them off for you in the main office.
Interpreting the Evaluations
What do you do once you’ve heard from your students? Look through the evaluations for repeated themes. (Extreme comments often cancel each other out.) Notice both things that students are finding work well for them and things students suggest changing.
Keep doing the things students are finding useful. Think about whether the changes they suggest are feasible or even desirable for your class. Students often have excellent ideas that you may not have thought about; think about implementing those. Sometimes one group of students may say they find a certain thing helpful while another group says that the same thing should be canned. Don’t despair — what this tells you is simply that students are different and not everyone learns in the same way. Some students may comment about things you have no control over: for example, “Get rid of the textbook.” That is information you can pass on to the faculty member for the next time the course is taught, but it’s something you can’t change.
Finally, report back to the students and thank them. Let them know what the general drift of the evaluations was. Some instructors even provide a typed and detailed report. Students benefit from a broader sense of each others’ experience of the class, which may be quite varied, and they come to know that you value their perceptions.
Making the Most of Your Results
We encourage you to discuss the results of your mid-term evaluation with the faculty member you are teaching with. In the event that you would like to discuss the results with a Teaching Consultant at the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, or if you have questions about the process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.