A Win-Win: Making Mid-course Student Feedback Useful For Instructors AND Students

By Christine Goedhart

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The half-way point of a course is a great time to ask students for feedback. It is far enough into the course where students are able to draw upon their experience to give meaningful feedback, while also providing you enough time to make changes based on that feedback.

Additionally, mid-course feedback sets up a win-win situation for both you and your students. You will receive valuable information that will help you improve the course and better meet the needs of your students, and your students will appreciate the opportunity to have their voices heard.

The following is information and tips to help you effectively collect and use mid-course student feedback.

Types of questions you can use

There are generally two types of questions you can use to collect feedback – open-ended and closed-ended.

With open-ended questions, students are asked to provide a unique and personalized answer to a question or statement. Examples include:

    • What do you most/least enjoy about this course?
    • What should I keep/stop/start doing in this course?
    • How can I better support you to succeed in this course?

With closed-ended questions, students are asked to respond to a question or statement by choosing answers within a given set. Examples include:

    • Graded assessments (e.g., quizzes, exams, assignments) are aligned with the material covered in the course.
      • Strongly Agree
      • Agree
      • Neither agree nor disagree
      • Disagree
      • Strongly disagree
    • Are there sufficient opportunities to ask questions and get help in this course?
      • Sufficient
      • Somewhat sufficient
      • Neither sufficient nor insufficient
      • Somewhat insufficient
      • Insufficient

Open-ended questions tend to produce richer and more useful feedback, but the feedback can be difficult to summarize or time-consuming to review. Conversely, closed-ended questions tend to be easier to summarize, but the information gained can be less comprehensive.

However, keep in mind that closed-ended questions can be opened up by asking students to explain their answers. For example:

    • Indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statement and explain your answer: “I am able to complete the work in this course while also maintaining hobbies, work, community, and health.”

Methods to collect student feedback

There are four main ways to collect mid-course student feedback:

  • Online survey through Canvas or Qualtrics – Students answer feedback questions electronically (usually outside of class time).
  • Paper survey – Students write out answers to feedback questions (usually during class time).
  • Clicker questions – Questions or statements are posed to the class and students respond through the use of clickers (usually during class time).
  • Discussions – Students discuss answers to feedback questions within small groups and/or the larger class (usually during class time).

The method you choose will likely depend on factors specific to your context, such as the type of feedback you want, the number of students in the course, the amount of class time you can dedicate to obtaining feedback, the amount of time you have to review the feedback, and available technology.

Tips for getting useful student feedback

The following are some best practices for obtaining and using mid-course student feedback.

Ensure anonymity

If students know that the feedback they provide will not be linked to their name, then you will get more feedback, and more honest feedback.

One way to ensure anonymity is to ask someone who is not on the instructional team (e.g., a Science Education Specialist) to facilitate the feedback process by interfacing with the students and collecting the data. An added benefit is that you have a partner with whom you can discuss the feedback results.

Share your objective for collecting feedback

Let students know why you are collecting their feedback and that you value their feedback. They will be more likely to participate if they know that their feedback is important to you and that you intend to do something with it (especially if it will benefit them).

Report back

Check in with students afterward to thank them for their feedback and to share any changes you are planning to make based on the feedback they provided. If you are not able to make a requested change, explain the reason (e.g., it is out of your control).

Include everyone

Choosing a method that explicitly solicits feedback from every student in the class will ensure that you gather comprehensive data and that you aren’t only hearing from the “loudest” students.

Keep it short

It shouldn’t take students more than 5-10 minutes to provide the feedback requested, and ideally there should be 5 or fewer questions.


Want to see some mid-course feedback examples? Here are some helpful links:

Sample Midterm Evaluations (UC Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning): https://teaching.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/sample_midterm_evals.pdf

Mid-Course Student Feedback Samples (University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching): http://crlt.umich.edu/sites/default/files/instructor_resources/Collecting_Mid-semester_Student_Feedback.pdf


And here is a great UBC-produced guide for collecting mid-course feedback:

Guide to Collecting Mid-Course Feedback at UBC (Prepared by the office of the AMS VP Academic and University Affairs): http://midterm.teacheval.ubc.ca/files/2014/10/UBC-Guide-to-Collecting-Mid-Course-Feedback.pdf


Are there any strategies you use that I didn’t mention, or any experiences you’ve had with effectively collecting mid-course feedback that you’d like to share? Please include them in the comments below or send me an email. I’d love to hear them!

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