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SoTL in 10 minutes
SIRs – Student instructional Report II
It is the bane of many of our existences. But it is not without merit. I find the comments, especially patterns and trends, to be quite valuable in improving or redesigning a course for the next semester. In some cases, I wish I had known what the students were feeling and experiencing (educationally) prior to the beginning of the next term – when we typically receive our reports and comments. Whether you are a new professor, trying something new with a course this semester, or have suffered from less than stellar evaluations, consider giving a mid-term evaluation. Ask your students what they think, what they like, what they would like to see change about your course mid-way through the semester – and consider making some adjustments to improve the course and the student experience. Here are some other opinions on the topic. Later in the week you will receive links to mid-evaluation tools to adopt and adapt.
Chronicle of Higher Education 58(11), 11/4/2011
Faculty and Student Perceptions of the Effects of Mid-Course Evaluations on Learning and Teaching
Warning, the abstract below literally comes from a dissertation! She published in a journal that JU doesn’t subscribe to. I know you don’t have time to read the whole thing, but Chapter 7 (pp129-157) is the article written for publication.
Whitney Ransom McGowan
Department of Instructional Psychology and Technology
Brigham Young University
The focus of this study is to describe the effects of mid-course evaluations on teaching and student learning. A mixed methods approach was used, combining faculty and student surveys, faculty interviews, debriefing sessions, and a comparison of mid-course evaluations scores with end-of-semester scores. Out of 510 section mean scores (128 sections) from faculty members who participated in the study, 352 section mean scores (88 sections, 69%) showed students’ perceptions of their own learning improved between the time they completed the mid-course evaluation and the time they completed the end-of-course student rating survey. Results showed when faculty administered a mid-course evaluation, students’ perceptions of their own learning improved.
Faculty members saw more improvement if they conducted a mid-course evaluation, read the feedback, and discussed this input with their students. Faculty members saw the most improvement in their ratings when they also made changes based upon student feedback. The results of this study should be encouraging to all faculty members and administrators who may feel they want to improve their teaching and increase student learning but have limited time to devote to course revisions.
How do I create a mid-term evaluation survey?
So glad you asked. It can be anything you want or need it to be – and might differ between different courses, and even different sections. Open ended questions might get you some off topic suggestions – that are still worthy of consideration. Specific questions about something you perceive the students to be struggling with, or that new assignment/pedagogy you are testing out this semester will ensure feedback on that topic. But their concerns might be broader or different. You can model them off the SIR II, cherry picking the questions you believe to be most relevant to your course. Don’t forget to ask them about their effort, involvement, and interest in the course – eye opening for you and for them.
Once again here are some ideas to adopt and adapt.
What do you do with the information received?
- Do something with it – and let the students know about it. A graph or table summarizing the data lets each student know where their ideas rank with their peers.
- Some of the ideas will be good ones – but not all can be incorporated mid-semester. Knowing they are helping improve the course for the future can empower your students to speak up in the future and in other courses and situations.
- Some of the ideas will be incompatible with your course goals or teaching philosophy. But don’t ignore the idea(s), especially if they are coming from multiple students. Perhaps it is time to talk about or elaborate on the purpose of a particular assignment, project or paper. It communicates your expectations to the students and establishes respect and rapport.
- And finally, you can some make of the changes recommended by the students. Your goal is to let your students demonstrate understanding of the material – so let them do so.
Making the Change
You have given your survey, gotten some good ideas and feedback and now you want to make a change. I am unaware of an official policy at JU for changing a syllabus once the semester has begun – and I could only find brief reference to the topic at other universities. Best practices include:
- Have a class discussion and vote on the new syllabus.
- Consider an anonymous discussion board on blackboard as some students may be uncomfortable with speaking their mind if they disagree with the faculty member or are in the minority.
- Sufficient warning to the students – delay the start of any new schedule or grading scheme for a week.
- Only make changes that are in the student’s best interest – no new major assignments or projects created, total points earned approximately the same. Save the other ideas, good ideas but too burdensome for a mid-semester incorporation, for the next time you teach the course.
- Moving forward, indicate in your syllabus that there will be a mid-term evaluation and that the syllabus is subject to revision.