Mid-semester Formative Feedback

Mid-semester Formative Feedback

While the distribution and use of end-of-semester subject evaluations is well established at MIT, the use of formative evaluations at mid-semester is much less common.

Collecting formative mid-semester feedback is an extremely effective way to gain targeted and specific information from students about what aspects of the subject support their learning and which aspects hinder (i.e., do not support) their learning.

Now — in mid-March — is the most useful time to collect formative mid-semester feedback from your students:

In contrast to end-of-semester subject evaluations, mid-semester feedback is intended solely for the instructor, providing information to you that may prove useful in readjusting the current offering of your subject to improve student learning. And yet, the act of providing feedback to instructors prompts students to reflect on their learning in the subject and to consider how their own behaviors in the class are impacting the learning process.  This metacognition is crucial for students’ growth as learners.

TLL’s webpage on mid-semester formative feedback includes practical information for reflecting on, developing, and collecting mid-course feedback from your students. We share a wide variety of templates that you can easily customize to address your specific teaching and learning needs. 

This semester, in particular, you may want to collect information from your students about their sense of well-being, belonging, and community:

With no shortage of stressors, classrooms remain a focal point of vulnerability. A January 2022 survey of 1,700 US college students found that: “Seventy percent of respondents said they’re experiencing emotional distress or anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic and/or the introduction of the Delta and Omicron variants. And 51 percent said they have more stress and anxiety than they did last January.”

A quick check-in with students regarding their academic well-being in your classroom can allow you to identify and address any widespread issues and/or subject components that may be contributing to their lack of well-being and belonging. Inside Higher Ed reports: “The survey also found that students are seeking more mental health help. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they want more remote mental and physical health services, and 41 percent said they want more remote social support and a greater sense of belonging.”

What to keep in mind:

As noted in Professor Mays Imad’s recent presentation on trauma-informed teaching, sponsored by TLL, strategies that create a caring and supportive learning environment can center student well-being and help students feel safe and empowered to learn even amid emotional distress.

Many of the template links from our mid-semester feedback page can be customized to capture any specific well-being concerns you may have.

You can also check-in with students during class with a brief activity to begin class, which could be shared in person or in an anonymous backchannel (e.g., padlet, mentimeter, or groupme).

Examples for asking about student well-being:

One Word

Ask students to share one word to describe how they’re feeling. You can also invite students to use images or GIFs.

Internal Weather Report

Ask students to describe their current internal weather report (i.e., thoughts and emotions as weather – e.g. “sunny”, partially cloudy, stormy).

Ten-scale

Ask students to indicate their level of anxiety using a -10 to +10 scale, based on their window of tolerance.

Student-generated prompts

Once students have experienced some of your check-ins, engage them in creating their own prompts.

Thoughtful summary

You can follow each of these brief check-ins by noting themes, communicating care, and sharing resources that could help your students.

Contact us for assistance, ideas, support:

As always, staff from the Teaching + Learning Lab are available to help you develop a strategy that addresses your teaching needs — perhaps by creating a feedback form, implementing a useful approach, and/or guiding you to usefully reflect on student responses. Contact us (tll@mit.edu) if you would like to discuss any aspect of the mid-semester evaluation process.