Because we use a paper system, instructors do not receive student feedback until well past the end of the semester. At this point it is too late to address any issues. So, I decided to create a mid-semester survey and upload it to Blackboard. Student participation was voluntary and anonymous. I asked general questions, as well as questions centered around the goals from my Teaching Philosophy statement: creating a safe learning environment and helping students to learn to think critically.
Results: With all but a handful participating, my ratings were really good in almost all areas. Not nearly as many students as I expected thought I taught them critical thinking. Either they do not understand the concept in the same way I do, or my portrayal of it is too subtle. Perhaps I need to be more covert. Another consideration is that perhaps in some courses critical thinking is less important than in others. But, in a career development course, it is of some importance. Students praised me for my timely responses, and reported that my energy made the classes fun. I was not surprised about the timely feedback comment, as I am somewhat obsessive about checking and returning emails. But, the energy comment surprised me a little bit. People say that I am energetic, but I do not feel energetic. I just feel like me. A little less of me, actually, since this is a night class and I am NOT a night person.
Another comment that surprised me was that not all of them gave me top marks in being prepared. Most of them did, but some rated me as less than 100% prepared. This puzzles me. And I completely disagree. I pride myself on being both on-time and prepared. Perhaps it is because career counseling is not my domain, and so sometimes during lectures I would need to refer to my notes, or I may pause at certain points trying to think of what I wanted to say. I should have added a free-form comment area on this question so I would understand why they felt that way. Actually, there were a few questions I wish I had added a free-form area so that students could explain their answer.
The students also reported that they did not like having feedback about their sessions public. My initial idea was to email them privately, but the professor of record wanted them to be posted publicly so that others could benefit. Therefore, I felt a bit validated by the student’s comments. Next time, I will provide feedback privately, and more general feedback publicly. I did create a YouTube of general feedback, but I need to check the views on it to see how many watched it.
I highly recommend doing some sort of mid-semester evaluation, even if it is as simple as having students spend the last 5 minutes of class writing a paragraph about what they like and don’t like. You’ll have time to correct things that aren’t working, and you’ll get confirmation about what you think is working.
Update on 12/18/12: I continue to do mid-semester evaluations in all of my classes, with the exception of the last class I co-taught, Trends and Principles of the Counseling Profession, because the professor of record believed in processing student’s reactions in class, so having a separate forum was unnecessary.