From the moment you present a mid-semester feedback opportunity to the learners in your course, it is imperative that you communicate your commitments to acting on the feedback. Have you ever had a peer or employer ask for your input on a project or initiative and then seem to completely ignore it? Maybe your significant other asked for your opinion on ways to tackle a challenge and then pursued an opposite approach? If you can recall a moment like this, how did it make you feel?
When you collect mid-semester feedback, you are asking your students for feedback. You want to make sure they feel valued and heard, that they have a voice in your class space, and that their input isn’t being collected just “for show.” You should clearly indicate which elements of their feedback you will and will not act on (and why). We know that students who feel empowered and who see their voice reflected in class activities feel more engaged and are more likely to show positive learning outcomes.
There is a body of literature that indicates biases are real and problematic in students’ evaluation of teaching. The goal of this mid-semester instrument is not evaluative of the instructor, but instead is focused on feedback surrounding the learning experience. That being said, be aware that a host of factors including (but not limited to) gender, race, and subject matter, stress, and load can lead students to make statements that imprecisely reflect the actual quality of instruction.
We recognize it can be difficult to look past the most impassioned individual feedback and consider all the data holistically, but remember that the “loudest” voice or the longest comments may not reflect the overall feelings of learners. One helpful strategy is to have someone you trust read the comments before you do, then provide you their overall impressions and filter out any inappropriate remarks.
The following is Adapted from the Enhanced Digital Learning Initiative at MSU: Scott Schopieray (CAL), Stephen Thomas (Nat. Sci.) Sarah Wellman (CAL & Broad), Jeremy Van Hof (Broad).
Additional sources: Faculty Innovation Center at University of Texas at Austin
Toshalis, Eric & Nakkula, Michael (2012). Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice. The Student at the Center Series, Jobs For the Future.
Justin Esarey & Natalie Valdes (2020) Unbiased, reliable, and valid student evaluations can still be unfair, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2020.1724875