During the course of the semester, there is little we can do to change objectives and content, and less we can do about course size or location. But, we can address our approach and even how we use the spaces we work in, whether virtual or in-person, to improve our experiences. We can also assist learners in reflecting on what they might improve about their approach and use of what is available to them.
The midterm offers a good time to connect with learners and check in. Beyond what exams or other assessments can tell us, instructor initiated midterm evaluation surveys offer a tool for identifying the aspects of instruction that we can adjust in real-time to impact learner experiences in a positive way (Cohen, 1980). These adjustments might include modifications to how we approach lectures, deliver materials, structure class meetings, design modules in online or hybrid courses, offer feedback, or explain assignments.
But we can’t know what types of changes might be beneficial or even possible in the short or long-term until we ask our students.
The following three simple questions are based on the stop, start, continue technique developed by Snooks et al. (2004) and referred to as Bare Bones Questions (BBQ). We are suggesting these questions because they are preferred by students, encourage more actionable responses, and, more importantly, are focused on eliciting recommendations for development rather than ratings of a course or instructor (Veeck et al., 2015). A fourth question noted by Diamond (2004) encourages learners to consider their responsibility to the course and their own development.
So, if you ask three or four questions at the midterm, it might be these:
- What could I/we stop doing in order to create a better learning experience for you?
- What could I/we start doing to create a better learning experience for you?
- What should I/we continue doing that is positively impacting your learning experience?
- What can you, as a student in this course, do to make the learning experience better for yourself, your classmates, and your instructor?
Even if changes are not dramatic, offering students the opportunity to offer feedback and engage in conversations with instructors regarding their experience at the midterm, and making instructional improvements based on that feedback, increases student satisfaction and encourages more effective student interactions with the course and the instructor (Cohen, 1980; Diamond, 2004; Snooks et al., 2004, Veeck, 2015).
Cohen, P. A. (1980). Effectiveness of Student-Rating Feedback for Improving College Instruction: A Meta-Analysis of Findings. Research in Higher Education, 13(4), 321–341. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00976252
Diamond, M. R. (2004). The usefulness of structured mid-term feedback as a catalyst for change in higher education classes. Active Learning in Higher Education, 5(3), 217–231. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787404046845
Snooks, M. K., Neeley, S. E., & Williamson, K. M. (2004). 7: From SGID and GIFT to BBQ: Streamlining Midterm Student Evaluations to Improve Teaching and Learning. To Improve the Academy, 22(1), 110–124. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2334-4822.2004.tb00405.x
Veeck, A., O’Reilly, K., MacMillan, A., & Yu, H. (2016). The Use of Collaborative Midterm Student Evaluations to Provide Actionable Results. Journal of Marketing Education, 38(3), 157–169. https://doi.org/10.1177/0273475315619652