As someone teaching during spring 2021 semester at the University of Mississippi, we know that you are facing a variety of challenges from COVID-19. Many classrooms are challenged by shifting modalities, often abruptly caused by shifts in student health status with increasing – and then decreasing – quarantining. Faculty and students have reported feelings of isolation. And faculty are reporting fatigue and they pour more time in to responding to student work, attempting to close the perceived gaps created by distance education and to also reduce the effects of isolation.How do we know if our teaching efforts are successful? How can we identify ways to improve our classroom strategies? How can we identify blind spots in our teaching practices? How can we ensure students give voice to their perspectives as learners in our classrooms?
Mid-semester feedback can play a useful role in clarifying how students are progressing in a course, providing meaningful guidance on where to spend our teaching efforts, and building community among students and teachers. The KeepTeaching team, with support from CETL and the FTDC, has developed a mid-semester feedback survey that you can easily import into your Blackboard courses. Student responses are anonymous and only you have access to the survey report.
KeepTeaching and CETL will offer consultations with faculty who want to think about how best to respond to student feedback. These consultations can be initiated by contacting email@example.com.
The information you provide in this survey will be used to improve instruction. Your responses will be most helpful if you answer all of the questions thoughtfully and honestly. When you have completed the form, it will be shared with your teacher only, who will review the results to consider changes to the course. While teachers can see which student did or did not complete a survey, the comments from surveys are presented in the aggregate without any names. Participating in the survey, or not participating in the survey, will have no impact on your grade.
(a) In terms of the teaching and learning experience in this course, what is going well?
(b) In terms of your learning experience in this course, what could be improved?
(c) If you could change one aspect of your experience in this course, what would it be?
On [Date], I will activate an optional survey in Blackboard. It consists of only three questions, and its purpose is to allow me to better understand how you are experiencing our course. I encourage you to participate so that I may use information from the survey to improve the course.
If you should have any questions, please let me know. The survey will close on [date].
What happens to the data?
Faculty can decide how to respond to the responses, and only faculty will be able to review the responses. Faculty should not share individual student responses with others.
Who can help me figure out what to do with the results?
The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning is available for individual consultations to help interpret the responses. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and write “Mid-semester Teaching and Learning Survey” in the re: line.
If I commit to participating, am I committing to any particular response?
No. However, you should commit to a response of some sort. Typically faculty will review the responses for headlines and then provide a summary of main ideas found in the surveys, without attribution to any particular student. Then faculty will usually change a practice related to that idea, provide a clarification around any misunderstanding, or amplify an overlooked or under-appreciated concept.
Will my chair or dean know if I participate?
Not unless you share the fact that you have opted to participate in the survey process. Again, you are the only one who will see these responses.
Often, faculty will use a process is referred to as small group instructional diagnosis (SGID) (Redmond & Clark). Typically that process is conducted in face-to-face classrooms with trained facilitators using class time to conduct focus groups with students around questions focused on their learning experiences. Student identities are not collected, and facilitators leave the anonymous feedback with instructors. However, during COVID-19, a practice which depends on physical presence in the classroom is not a practicable choice.
Our use of the term “BBQ” for “Bare Bones Questions” is inspired by the work of Margaret K. Snooks, Sue E. Neeley, and Kathleen M. Williamson, who introduced the term to describe their approach to a version of mid-semester evaluation with narrowed questions (Snooks, et al.). In their work Snooks and colleagues utilized a more traditional SGID process utilizing trained colleagues: “The Bare Bones Questions (BBQ) process consists of empathic trained colleagues facilitating students’ evaluative discussions.” For our current COVID-19 circumstances, relying on the presence of people in a physical classroom is not practicable and will not scale. Thus, we have adapted their terminology for our online questionnaire process this semester.
Snooks and colleagues also offer that “BBQ may build intra‐institutional collegiality by reducing the isolation of teaching.” While this conclusion is still emerging, the circumstances of COVID-19 have clearly shown the increase of feelings of isolation among faculty and students in our community. We believe that given the usefulness of mid-semester feedback along multiple classroom dimensions warrants serious consideration of their adoption now.
Cohen, Peter A. “Effectiveness of student-rating feedback for improving college instruction: A meta-analysis of findings.” Research in higher education 13, no. 4 (1980): 321-341.
Keutzer, Carolin S. “Midterm Evaluation of Teaching Provides Helpful Feedback to Instructors.” Teaching of Psychology 20, no. 4 (December 1993): 238–40. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15328023top2004_12.
Clark, D. Joseph, and Mark V. Redmond. “Small group instructional diagnosis.” (1982). ERIC.
Snooks, Margaret K., Sue E. Neeley, and Kathleen M. Williamson. “7: From SGID and GIFT to BBQ: Streamlining midterm student evaluations to improve teaching and learning.” To improve the academy 22, no. 1 (2004): 110-124.