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Monday, September 13, 2010

Mid-Semester Evaluations: Yay or Nay?

In a post last week, I cited to an article discussing the decreasing percentage of students completing student evaluations as schools switch to online evaluation systems. One way that some professors have tried to circumvent this decrease is through the mid-semester student evaluation, discussed on here by Verity Winship in October 2008. On the one hand, these mid-semester evaluations can be more useful than end-of-semester evaluations because they allow professors to see if there is anything students dislike and change it before the class is over. On the other hand, I think that students might pull their punches in mid-semester evaluations rather than have to face the professor whom they criticized for the rest of the semester, reducing the efficacy of such evaluations. I also think that student concerns about anonymity are higher for mid-semester evaluations than for end-of semester evaluations.

That said, colleagues using mid-semester evaluations uniformly have told me that they love the feedback that they get and that they find it much more valuable than the feedback they get on end-of-semester evaluations. So, I have several purposes in this post. The first is to get a general sense of how many professors (or at least how many professors reading this post) use mid-semester evaluations. You can answer that by answering the poll below. The second is to ask professors who use mid-semester evaluations how they conduct their evaluations to ensure against concerns about student anonymity and lack of candor in responses. You can answer that by leaving a comment. The third is to ask professors who don't use mid-semester evaluations why you don't use them. You can also answer that by leaving a comment. Finally, my fourth questions is whether tenure committees should use mid-semester evaluations in making tenure and promotion decisions as they now use end-of semester evaluations. You can answer that by answering the poll below and/or leaving a comment. Thanks.


Do you use a mid-semester evaluation?

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Should tenure committees use mid-semester evaluations in tenure/promotion decisions?

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-Colin Miller   

Posted by Evidence ProfBlogger on September 13, 2010 at 10:35 AM | Permalink


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I just launched 2 Survey Monkey polls this weekend for my two classes. I have not done a mid-semester poll for the past three years. But I have recently introduced so many new elements (no casebook, film clips, minute papers, weekly quizzes, midterms, podcast summaries, etc.) that I wanted to get some feedback on those.

Posted by: Thaddeus Pope | Sep 19, 2010 5:39:04 PM


I think that's right: Mid-semester evals are not part of the tenure process. My own view is that it's still very valuable for a new professor to do them, even if they might hurt the bottom line in the short term: Not only can the feedback lead to big improvement, and be appreciated by the class, but teaching evaulations during the first year or two of teaching are often discounted anyway in the tenure process because it takes a lot of professors time to get their bearings.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 13, 2010 10:19:02 PM

As a VAP, I did mid-semester evals in my first year of teaching and was told by several students that it made them "feel heard." My end of the semester evals didn't suffer as a result, and the mid-semester feedback was helpful in gauging what was and was not working.

Posted by: anon | Sep 13, 2010 1:10:27 PM

Orin, thanks for the comment. That sort of feeds into my second poll because I would guess that most tenure committees do not currently consider mid-semester evaluations in tenure and promotion decisions. Therefore, if giving a mid-semester evaluation leads to toughar-then normal standards on end-of-the-year evaluations, I could see professors being gun shy about giving the former. Of course, the opposite could also be true in that a professor who was going to get slammed on end-of-the-semester evaluations could learn about things he was not doing that students disliked and correct them before the end of the semester.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Sep 13, 2010 12:50:35 PM

I used them in my first two years of teaching to get feedback and make adjustments. I haven't used them since, as I think I've had enough feedback from end-of-year evaluations over time to know what seems to work or not work.

I also wonder if mid-semester evaluations can lead to tougher-than-normal standards on end-of-the-year evaluations. If you ask a student if they like the course, and then ask them again, they're likely to want to focus on something new the second time. I suspect that leads students to be a bit more critical the second time (when it counts) then the first (when it doesn't).

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 13, 2010 12:35:36 PM

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