By Nina Powell, Department of Psychology (with input from CAFÉ)
Mid-semester feedback presents an opportunity to capture data from current student cohorts that, if used well, can align with educators’ principles in the following ways:
In designing a customised, well-thought-out survey, educators can collect specific, real-time data that can be used to better understand how students are approaching their module in light of overarching educational aims.
In reflecting on their practice, educators can design the survey to capture specific data at two timepoints (mid- to end-of-semester) to evidence change on measures of importance.
In responding to students’ feedback, educators can explain the pedagogical rationale and principles used in the design of their module; students can then learn about the value in your approach.
One thing to note about mid-semester feedback is that, unlike the end-of-semester NUS Student Feedback Exercise, this feedback is bespoke and specific to the module(s) you are teaching. This means that educators can place much less emphasis on student feedback as a means for performance evaluation.
Mid-semester feedback can be used for the purpose of providing students with the rationale behind your teaching practices, and to collect valuable data in targeted areas that align with your overarching educational aims. For example, if an educator’s goal is to increase the quantity and quality of reading students do throughout the semester, they can include specific items in their survey to capture information related to that particular goal. The educator might then deliver an intervention during the second half of the semester and administer an end-of-semester survey to gauge the efficacy of the intervention. This provides a measure of something that speaks directly to your educational principles.
To effectively use this mid-semester evaluation in a way that aligns with reflective education, here are a few dos and don’ts to consider when designing your survey:
- Ask specific questions that reflect what you are interested in understanding as an educator (e.g., are students watching pre-recorded lectures before attending live discussion sessions?).
- Ask questions that capture students’ behaviours and motivations rather than students’ preferences. For example, you can measure whether students are reading, engaging in peer learning opportunities, etc. (as opposed to questions measuring students’ likes and dislikes).
- If you do want to know how students feel about a particular tool or technique that you are implementing, consider asking students if they find value in that specific approach rather than asking if they like or dislike the approach. This is because students may dislike rigorous and challenging aspects of your module, but they may be able to report finding value in the approach in light of your educational principles (e.g., even if you find ___________ challenging, do you feel that there is value in ___________?). Considering adding a follow-up “why?” question so as to better understand the rationale for students’ responses.
- Use open-ended questions to ask students about what they see as valuable in an aspect of the module (e.g., what do you think the value in ___________ is for your long-term growth and development?). First, this demonstrates that the module is carefully considered and designed in light of pedagogical reflection rather than designed to target the satisfaction of students. Second, while some students may understand the value of your approach (which is evidence of alignment between your educational goals and students’ perceptions), for those students who may not understand the value of your approach, you can take the opportunity to explain the value to students by sharing your knowledge of pedagogy and your educational principles in the second half of the semester.
- Keep in mind that students are often extremely busy submitting assignments and preparing for, or taking, exams during this period. This is important for considering how you phrase your questions so as not to tap into momentary frustration or the fleeting affective consequences associated with engaging in challenging endeavours. Rather, you want to tap into something more meaningful and useful for your long-term educational aims that go beyond student satisfaction and happiness.
- Design a survey in light of what you want to better understand or evidence as an educator rather asking students to evaluate you or your practices.
- Share and address the survey findings and the future plan based on the survey outcome with the students openly.
- Ask vague and open-ended questions about preferences, likes or dislikes that undermine the educational principles and philosophy that goes into the designing of your module.
- Ask too many questions. Be objective in designing key questions.
- Treat the mid-semester feedback exercise as a “customer satisfaction survey” – remember that you are designing an effective module based on principles and pedagogical knowledge rather than the immediate satisfaction of your students who may, in many cases, dislike the rigour and challenge that is beneficial for their long-term growth.
- Feel pressured to reduce the rigour and challenge of your module in the second half of the semester by asking general questions about what can be improved or changed to meet students’ immediate satisfaction. Construct questions to ask what kind of support can be added, rather than what should be removed.
While student feedback has its limitations, a well-designed mid-semester survey that targets what educators want to understand or evidence in line with their educational principles can demonstrate reflective practice. This is also an opportunity to share that reflection with your students in helping them to see the value in what you do.