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By: Dr. Laurel Willingham-McLain, Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE)

The Focus on Teaching and Learning workshop series includes a 20-minute asynchronous session, Getting the Most Out of Mid-Course Feedback. The workshop focuses on gathering and using student feedback to make changes for deepening student learning throughout the semester. The session also highlights Syracuse University's online coure feedback platform, EvaluationKIT, which is a new tool you can use to collect student input.

Early-course feedback from students is helpful so that faculty can revise aspects of their teaching early enough for student respondents to benefit from their suggestions. At the same time, during a pandemic, when faculty are investing their energy in teaching well in entirely new contexts, receiving such feedback might be difficult.  Furthermore, student feedback might skew toward the negative, because many students are also expending more effort than usual to stay well and figure out their learning contexts, in addition to succeeding in their courses. 

Here are some ideas for instructors receiving mid-course feedback.

  • Open your feedback in the presence of a trusted colleague or CTLE staff member. This can help you contextualize the stinging comments—which, though they are limited in number, can take over our minds day and night.
  • Completely set aside the comments that don’t provide helpful teaching and learning information.  For example, “the course sucks” or “I don’t have one good thing to say about this course.” 
  • Divide the negative comments and recommendations into two groups:
    • those where you can make changes
    • those that are beyond your control or you don’t think are wise to change
  • Take time to savor the comments that show you’re reaching students and that they’re learning.
  • Address the perceptions that students have even when you don’t agree with them or can’t imagine them being true. Sometimes you need to delve deeper rather than simply denying the students’ perceptions. For example:
    • “My prof is unavailable”—even though you have offered multiple ways for students to contact you. You might respond: “Some students reported that I’m unavailable. I really care about this. I want to be available to help you succeed in this course.” And then you could poll students anonymously to learn about the ways students have found you available or would like you to be available.
  • As soon as possible, tell your students what you learned from the mid-course feedback. Explain the changes you plan to make and why. Equally, explain aspects that you will not be changing although students requested it.
  • Honor the students for giving feedback and address them as if they were your colleagues giving you professional feedback. Why? Because the act of giving feedback is important for students to learn. Equally important is your modeling of how to receive and act on feedback.

Faculty alone can view the mid-course feedback. That doesn’t mean that you have to be isolated. You are most welcome to consult with CTLE staff on how to interpret and respond to the feedback you receive in a private, one-on-one Zoom session. 

RECOMMENDED READING 

Buskist, C., & Hogan, J.  (2010).  She needs a haircut and a new pair of shoes: Handling those pesky course evaluationsThe Journal of Effective Teaching 10 (1), 51-56.

Center for Teaching Excellence, Duquesne University, Benefits, Impact and Process of Early Course Evaluations.

 

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