Students, but waiting until the end of the semester reduces its effectiveness. The Office of Teaching and Learning Advancement is available to help you collect timely and valuable information from your students midway through the semester. In the model we use, a facilitator will lead a structured discussion in your class to gather feedback from your students. While you have to give up a class period (at least 45 minutes), you will gain valuable feedback on your teaching while there is plenty of time in the semester to make adjustments to the course. This process is meant to help you improve your teaching, not to serve as an evaluation tool, so the results are confidential—we don't report them to anyone but you.
Students respond well to this model since it allows them to openly discuss how the class is going, feeling comfortable with the anonymity of the process and the prospect for positive change in the class. Because the discussion is structured and facilitated, it turns complaints into constructive recommendations. What it takes from you is an openness to student suggestions, as well as a willingness to discuss the results with them afterwards.
Here's how it works:
You'll meet with a facilitator (typically an OTLA staff member) to discuss what kind of feedback you want from your students—certain aspects of your teaching, specific assignments, personal concerns, etc. We'll discuss the procedure and set up a date for the in-class discussion.
On the day of the discussion, you'll briefly introduce the activity and the facilitator, and then you'll leave the room. The facilitator will break the class into small groups of 4-5 students and ask them to write individually for a few moments on the questions below. Then the groups will discuss their comments and decide on their top 2-3 answers for each question. Finally, each group will report out to the larger class and the facilitator will help the class decide on the top 3-5 answers to each question. The questions can vary, depending on the initial meeting, but typically follow this pattern:
- What about the class best helps you learn?
- What changes could the instructor make to improve your learning?
- What could you as a student do to improve the class?
- Other questions as determined in the initial meeting
Report Writing and Results Meeting
After the facilitator gathers written and oral comments, he or she will prepare a short written report for you that highlights the results of the discussion, the student recommendations, and any other issues that arose during the class session (e.g. significant points of disagreement, etc.). You will then meet with the facilitator to discuss the report and possible actions or changes you might consider.
Follow-Up Class Discussion
After you have time to digest the report and consider changes—hopefully within a few days—you should discuss the results with your class. Most teachers will go through the list and talk about what changes they are willing to make, and what changes they cannot or will not make… and why. That honest discussion is key to keeping the process open and productive.
Please note the following guidelines:
- We will offer this service from February 15 to March 19; moving it any later makes meaningful changes more difficult.
- We expect that you will be able to meet with your facilitator within a week of the in-class session.
- We ask that you gather feedback on only one class per semester; our resources are limited, and so is your ability to adjust your teaching mid-semester without feeling overwhelmed.
If you are interested in having OTLA help you with this type of midterm feedback, please contact us at email@example.com or 285-1763 to schedule an initial meeting. If your department wishes to facilitate these sorts of activities on your own, we are happy to meet with you to discuss the procedure in more depth, and to share the materials we use.