While student’s complete end-of-semester evaluations, these can only help you improve your teaching in the future. Early and regular feedback can help you to:
- Improve a course immediately;
- Get a class back on track if it isn’t going well;
- Refine a course that is going well; and
- Alert you to problems that some of your students may be having.
There are a variety of ways to elicit feedback from your students. TAP offers a sample mid-semester evaluation (pdf) that you can use as is or adapt.
Instead of, or in addition to, a formal mid-semester evaluation, you can ask your students for feedback more regularly. Some instructors like to ask students to write a one-minute memo at the end of each class, in which they quickly answer the questions: “What was the most important idea of today’s class?” and “What questions were you left with?”
You can also hand out slips of paper every few weeks or after major assignments and ask specific questions about the coursework or something more general, like, “Is there anything you want me to know about how the class is going for you?” Customize the questions for your particular class. For instance, if few of your students speak in class, ask them why they don’t participate and what would encourage them to do so. However you choose to ask the questions, allow your students to answer anonymously, to encourage honesty. Take feedback from your students seriously.
Keep in mind that if you ask students for their opinions but then don’t respond to those opinions in any way, they will be understandably frustrated. You may not be able to make the kind of changes your students request, but if that’s the case, you should talk to them about why it’s not possible. Be willing to implement reasonable changes, and don’t be afraid to try new teaching methods in response to student feedback.