To our faculty, students, and staff who are teaching this semester,
We continue to be impressed by your ongoing efforts — and those of our students — to teach and learn in these trying times. We recognize that many of you are rising to the occasion despite juggling complications and challenges in your work and personal lives.
We write today with what we hope is a meaningful recommendation to support you in your teaching this term. The midterm of the semester presents an optimal time for instructors to gather formative feedback from their students.
For most of us, much has changed in our teaching in the past eight months. And those changes — particularly changes in the modalities through which we're teaching — may leave us wondering whether we are teaching in ways that are most conducive to and supportive of student learning.
Gathering student feedback — and acknowledging and responding to it by adjusting instruction, course delivery, timing, or content — can both improve learning and boost students' satisfaction with instruction (Knol et al. 2018). Gathering midterm formative feedback also promotes communication between instructors and students (Diamond 2004) and demonstrates instructors' interest in learning more about students' experiences in the course.(see Footnote 1)
There are a number of means of gathering student feedback. Examples include informally surveying students through
- Anonymous, ungraded Carmen surveys
- Anonymous Qualtrics surveys
- Notecards distributed to students on which they record their responses (for a low-tech option for those of you teaching face-to-face or in hybrid contexts)
The instrument need not (and shouldn't be!) complex. You can ask two or three simple questions like the following:(see footnote 2)
- What is helping you learn in this class?
- What is making learning difficult?
- What is the most important/valuable thing you've learned so far in our course?
- What, if anything, is still unclear?
- How many hours each week, on average, do you spend on our course?
For additional recommendations for gathering feedback in online courses, check out Nora Fleming's recent blog in Edutopia (1 October 2020): 7 Ways to Do Formative Assessments in Your Virtual Classroom.
Research shows that gathering midterm feedback is even more beneficial when the instructor analyzes and interprets feedback and designs an action plan in consultation with an educational developer (Springgay & Clarke 2007; Kulik 2001).
Consultants from the Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning can assist in a variety of ways. We can help instructors draft questions, interpret the resulting feedback and plan appropriate responses to that feedback. For small classes (less than 24), we can conduct focus groups via Zoom (known as a Small Group Instructional Diagnosis or SGID). This process entails setting aside 45 minutes of class time to allow the consultant to gather feedback and talk with students via Zoom while the instructor is not present. (Please note that staff availability for SGIDs is limited and scheduled on a first-come, first served basis.)
Please contact the Drake Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in any method for collecting formative feedback in your courses. We will work with you to generate the feedback tools that are right for you.
Helen and Kay
Helen I. Malone, PhD
Vice Provost for Academic Policy and Faculty Resources
Kay Halasek, PhD
Director, Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning