University of Minnesota
teaching with writing
center for writing

Teaching With Writing.Center for Writing's home page.

Mid-semester feedback: operating instructions*

When distributing the mid-semester feedback form to your class...

  • Leave time at the end of a class session, ideally during weeks 4-7 of a semester, for students to fill this form out (you might even let them know that it is coming a session in advance so that they can be thinking about what they want to tell you).
  • Ask for a student volunteer who can collect the forms in a folder or envelope and put into your mailbox or bring to your office.
  • Let students know that you sincerely hope that they will be candid in their responses.
  • Stress that the only purpose for this survey is to help you improve the class and that you are the only one who will be seeing it.
  • Tell students when you will get back to them with the results of the survey (e.g., "I'll have the results tabulated by... and I'll share some of the highlights with you.").

When considering your tabulated results...

  • If 20% or more of students responded negatively to an item, you are going to want to address their concerns. You may want to ask a colleague in the department, a consultant from the Center for Writing, or a consultant from the Center for Teaching and Learning Services to discuss the results with you and help you identify options for making changes.
  • It is quite common for there to be some contradictory feedback (for example, some students indicate that they feel your grading criteria are absolutely clear while others say that they absolutely disagree with this). These contradictions may indicate that your strategies are particularly effective for students with one learning style but are not very effective for a different learning style. You might consider asking the students to discuss their specific ideas--perhaps asking them to respond in writing to questions like "The instructor's grading criteria are clearest when...," or "The instructor's grading criteria are least clear when...." Prompt students to be as explicit as possible.
  • Review student comments to the open-ended questions carefully. First, look over the positive things your students have said about the course. Then read their suggestions for improvement and sort them into three categories: those you intend to change, those that you either cannot or—for administrative or pedagogical reasons—will not change, and those that are negotiable.

When summarizing the results to the class...

  • Select two or three items that students responded to very favorably and two or three items that you hope to improve. There's no need to provide the results for every question.
  • If you have decided to make changes based on the evaluation, explain what you intend to do differently and why.
  • Clarify any confusion or misunderstandings about your goals and students’ expectations.
  • Ask for further information if necessary (e.g., "Several of you feel that the response paper assignment is unclear, but I need some help in understanding why. I'm going to give you each a copy of the assignment and ask you to spend a few minutes annotating it with questions and comments.”)
  • If there is an item that you would like to improve but are unsure about how to do so most effectively, you might ask students for advice (e.g., "I'd like to be more successful in increasing your interest in X. Do you have any ideas as to how I might do this?"). You might ask students to spend a few minutes brainstorming ideas in pairs or small groups.
  • After outlining the improvements you plan to make, let students know what they can do to assist in remedying problems identified in the evaluation. For example, if students report that they are often confused, invite them to ask questions more often.

Keep in mind that your tone and attitude are very important when responding to student feedback.

Try to maintain a positive, accepting attitude when discussing the results with your students. The manner in which you introduce the feedback form and discuss the results will indicate to students whether you took their feedback seriously. Avoid being defensive, angry, preachy, or overly apologetic.

* adapted from the University of Minnesota, Center for Teaching and Learning Services’ TA/TA Supervisor Handbook (no longer online)

Check out the Mid-Semester Feedback Form (.pdf).