Midterm course evaluations are back for a second semester, and the tool stands to attract more instructors this time around.
Last semester, Western launched the midterm check-in evaluations for the first time. Since transitioning from paper to online evaluations, Western University’s Your Feedback platform lets course instructors to get feedback during the term in addition to the end-of-term course evaluations.
“This is really an opportunity for instructors to hear from students before the course is over,” said Gavan Watson, Western's associate director of eLearning. “They can get a better idea of what’s working well and what changes can be made.”
Last semester, instructors chose from a pool of 28 questions, which also included questions that appear in the familiar end-of-term evaluations. There is no minimum or maximum number of questions that instructor can select for the midterm evaluation.
Similar to end-of-term evaluations, the collected responses on the midterm check-in questionnaire are anonymous and confidential.
“The whole purpose is to improve the quality of instruction,” explained Watson. “If it’s feasible, instructors can make some changes over the rest of the course.”
According to Watson, the midterm check-in isn't mandatory, allowing professors to opt in if they wish. Students with instructors who opted in for the first time received an email last October, requesting them to fill out the questionnaire.
Sarah Ross, professor of management and organizational studies, said that while she did not participate in Western's midterm check-in evaluation, she regularly conducts her own midterm checks, which is comprised of three general questions.
"Although it's nice to have some feedback partway through the term, I haven't actually gotten the greatest feedback from my own survey because of its poor response rate," Ross said in an email. "So few students respond that I have no idea whether their perspective matches that of the rest of their classmates."
However, Ross said that she is thinking of participating in the midyear check-in, as she is not sure which format would be best for generating student feedback for her teaching methods.
Unlike Ross, Tom Haffie, professor of biology, was one of the instructors who did participate in last semester's midterm check-in evaluation. Haffie explained that this year's first-year biology course was redesigned as a blended course with both in-class and online components and a different grading system.
"We've never had that kind of institutional ability to do a midterm check before, and we've never been able to customize it," Haffie said. "It is helpful to check that we are on course and make changes if we needed to."
Of the 28 questions, Haffie was able to select 13 questions that he felt pertained to the new online aspect of the course, and his focus was whether students still felt that the assessment system was fair. He reported that the responses were mostly positive.
Haffie emphasized that he is very supportive of the ability to do a midterm check-in, especially with first-year classes and courses that are trying a different format.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see that courses that do mid-term checks might get better responses than at the end of the year," said Haffie. "If students can see that faculty is responding to these surveys and are making changes, then I suspect we will get more [survey] participation."