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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mid-Semester Student Evaluations

For the last few semesters, I have asked students to give brief mid-semester class evaluations.  It is about that time of year, so I'd like to hear about others' experiences with this and suggestions for shaping the process. 

I hand out blank index cards and ask students to write down a few things that they like or don't like about the class and to suggest any changes that would improve the class for them.  The emphasis is on practical changes that would improve their experience for the remaining weeks.  The cards are anonymous and I give them a bit of class time to fill them out.  These are informal in the sense that I am the only person to read them and they don't become part of any institutional record.  I've found that  there are some changes I'm not going to make (e.g., handing out powerpoint before class), but that a few can be addressed easily (e.g., more summary of prior material). 

The mid-semester review makes sense to me because students give comments while they still can be addressed.  I have also heard the theory that students feel less need to vent in their final comments  when they've had a chance to put in their two cents.  I wonder if the role of final evaluations in the (junior?) professor's employment file/teaching record sometimes overshadows other aspects.  My hope is that informal mid-semester evaluations allow more room for constructive suggestions.

Posted by Verity Winship on October 30, 2008 at 01:29 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink

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Comments

These are a very good idea in principle and I'm glad to see someone can use them. The problem I have always had in practice is that by the time I realize mid-semester has come and I try to prepare an evaluation it's usually more than 3/4 of the way through the semester. By that time, with crunch time coming, I tend to say forget it and just use the end of semester one. Maybe someday I'll be organized enough to prepare these before the semester start and to note them on a syllabus so that I'll be ready to hand them out in time!

Posted by: Matt | Oct 30, 2008 7:11:21 PM

I did this in my first 2 years of teaching, and I had a somewhat different experience: The mid semester reviews were really positive, but the end of semester views were relatively mixed. I'm not sure why that was, but I wonder if the venting theory worth both ways: students who really like the course feel like they have vented by telling you that they like it in the mid-semester evaluation, so they feel less of a need to tell it to you again in the final version.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Oct 31, 2008 1:12:52 AM

I do this in my classes as well, and I have found it really helpful. The students are more likely to give good suggestions when they know there is time for the suggestions to be implemented. I think it is especially helpful in big classes where it can be hard to know how much they are getting. I use Survey Monkey for my surveys. The survey asks the students whether they have any business background, what they like about the course, what they don't like about the course, whether they think the pace of the course has been too fast, too slow, or about right, and if there is anything else they think I should know. Generally, about 60% of the students respond. I tend to use the same survey every year, so there is no new prep time on it every year and I send it out after week 5 when it is still relatively early but they know their general thoughts about the course.

Posted by: Jessica | Oct 31, 2008 6:19:56 AM

Verity, I usually do this, too (though I don't get anything like Jessica's response rate!) The point, for me, I tell the students, is to try to get constructive feedback (and to learn about, and respond to, concerns) before it is too late, i.e., when I get the formal TCE's.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Oct 31, 2008 1:55:06 PM

Some of the "older" profs don't understand how useful it is to pass out the powerpoints before class (or even post them on the web). As a student, I can tell you that it works. Listening to a prof read from the powerpoint is quite boring (and usually those who use powerpoints don't really know the subject). But, if you could follow along and take notes "on" (yes, literally take the notes on the powerpoint slide), the prof's presentation becomes much more useful and engaging. Otherwise students will tend not to listen because "everything the prof is saying is on the powerpoint."

There's my 2 cents.

Posted by: Student | Nov 1, 2008 10:38:06 AM

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