A mid-semester course evaluation: By you, for you

Queens College students are asked to complete official teaching evaluations in the fall and spring semesters, during the last four weeks of the term; results are posted on the Course Information System website usually a couple of weeks after the final due-date for grades. But why wait for the official evaluations period to solicit feedback from your students? There are some great reasons you might want to survey your students now, in the middle of the semester:

  • Get feedback now, before it is too late for you to do anything about it. You could compare results from your mid-semester evaluation to the official results, as a way to measure the impact of any changes you make based on student feedback.
  • Customize the questions to your heart’s content: ask with unbridled specificity about readings, technologies, activities, or any other aspect of your class.
  • Model reflective teaching for your students and engage them as insightful contributors to the way the course content is delivered.
  • These evaluations are administered by you, and are entirely for you—but remember that they can make great additions to your tenure “box” or any other teaching portfolio, as evidence of your teaching effectiveness. If you don’t want to include the evaluations themselves in your portfolio, at least consider including any customized survey you construct.

You can opt to give your survey as a paper handout, but the Internet offers some excellent time-saving alternatives. For the purposes of this “private” midterm evaluation, only honest answers will be useful. A comfortable setting conducive to “free speech” and with some degree of anonymity is therefore essential. These prerequisites are easily met if you let your students take your survey online in the comfort of their home (or the library, or a local Starbucks…). An online survey also makes it super-easy to collect responses and get an aggregate report.

Let’s consider some ways to construct a super-easy (or a more ambitious) mid-semester evaluation. Two variables contribute to the level of difficulty: (1) the degree to which you customize the set of questions and (2) your familiarity with the tool you choose to administer the survey.

Use a paper handout

It’s easy enough to download, print out, copy, and hand out a list of questions. If you don’t want to deviate from the official Queens College questionnaire, this PDF puts all the current questions on a single page. You can also find the questions in the Course Information System website (browse to any instructor or course results page, click on “Details”, and click on “Show the Questionnaire…”).

You might have students take the survey in class or on their own, but be sure to come up with ways to help your students feel “safe” when taking and submitting the survey. Also anticipate spending some time on making an aggregate report, since you will have to tabulate responses by hand.

Construct a Google form

An easy way to collect midterm evaluations from your students is using Google Forms. There are no limits on number of responses you can collect or number of surveys you can create with this system, and the data are stored in an easy to analyze way. You will need a Google account to work in this platform, but your students won’t. Make this procedure super-easy by using this template, which includes all the official Queens College questions. Challenge yourself by adding a question or two, for your own purposes.  If you are totally new to Google Forms, check out this tutorial.

Once you’re satisfied with the content of your questions, get the link for your survey and share it with your students. Google Form links tend to be very long: you could use tinyurl or bitly to shorten the URL. As an example, the direct link to our template looks like this:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?pli=1&formkey=dDAwMTBDU3pVQ3FWOG1leHVPVWJROWc6MQ#gid=0

Here’s a shortened version that takes you to the same place:

http://tinyurl.com/d26cyt2

It is not impossible for students to take and submit a survey administered like this more than once.  To make sure this does not happen, you could let students pick a nickname or an identifier of some sort from a list, and require that picked name or identifier as an answer to the first or last survey question.

Use a web-based survey tool

There are other tools you can use to create and administer a mid-semester evaluation survey. Here are two tools we have used:

SurveyMonkey offers a free basic plan which will allows you to design a 10-question survey and collect responses from up to 100 students per survey. While this is not a good option if you teach classes bigger than 100 students, this is a very flexible and easy-to-use survey tool. With a free account, results are accessible online only, and can’t be downloaded.

SurveyGizmo is another easy-to-use web-based survey tool, which offers a no-fee account for educators. The free account allows up to 250 responses per month, sufficient if you teach no more than that many students total in a given semester.

Run a survey on Blackboard

If you use Blackboard for your class, a Blackboard survey could be an excellent way to administer a mid-semester evaluation. Blackboard surveys let you know who in your class has completed the survey, but don’t link responses to student names, so you’re collecting responses anonymously.

If you have never used surveys in Blackboard, here’s a way to get started:

  • Add the template to the set of available tests in a Blackboard class:
    • Download this template to your computer (it is a ZIP file exported from Blackboard itself, containing some of the official Queens College evaluation questions).
    • Login to Blackboard and browse to the course you’re interested in evaluating.
    • Look in the “Control Panel” for “Organization Tools”: select it, and click “Tests, Surveys, and Pools”.
    • Click “Surveys” and then click the “Import Survey” button.
    • Browse for the file you downloaded earlier, select it, and press “Submit”. You should be redirected to a page that says “Survey Import Complete”.
  • Make the survey available for your students:
    • Go to a content area where you would like the survey to appear, and be sure “Edit Mode” is “ON”.
    • Look for the “Create Assessment” button/menu and click “Survey”.
    • The survey “Teaching Evaluations” should appear in the box.  Select it and press “Submit”.
    • In the following page, be sure to make the link available, and set other aspects of the way you’d like the survey to appear to students.  Press “Submit” again, and you’re done.

If you don’t want to use the template, Blackboard allows you to build your survey from scratch. Simply go to a content area, look for the “Create Assessment” button/menu, click “Survey”, and compose your questions.

Try it!

So, there are many ways (some more technical than others) for you to get a mid-semester feel for how your class is going. This feedback is most useful now, while there’s still time to reorient your teaching. Why not give it a try?

Have we missed something?

Let us know! If you’d like to add your own tip about mid-semester course evaluations, please comment below.

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