Published: Jan. 20, 2021 By

Getting feedback from your students throughout the semester provides you multiple checks on the student experience and helps you determine how to adjust your course to better meet their needs. A two-way communication channel about what is and is not working can help you connect with your students and create a positive classroom climate.

Want to know how your class is going? Ask your students!

Not long ago, I taught an undergraduate seminar for which I had designed great scaffolded learning activities and assignments. Each assignment built stepping stones into the next, allowing students to practice intellectual skills while getting frequent peer and instructor feedback. I walked into the semester feeling clever and confident.

About a month in, the grumbling began. “We can’t write a 12-page paper! It’s just too much,” they agreed. I told them I was surprised because they had all passed their first-year research course for which they were required to write much more. I dismissed their complaints but began to wonder what was really going on.

Getting feedback from your students throughout the semester provides you multiple checks on the student experience and helps you determine how to adjust your course to better meet their needs. A two-way communication about what is and is not working can help you connect with your students and create a positive classroom climate. Students feel respected when their instructor cares about their learning.

What is useful to know?

You might ask students to reflect on the structure or content of the course, learning activities, assignments, or strategies to improve their experience. Maybe you are trying something new and want to know if it is working. Or perhaps you have a huge course enrollment or are teaching remotely and do not have much opportunity for interaction. Some questions you might ask:

  1. What are three things you have learned in the class so far? What is one thing you have you learned in class that you did not expect to learn?
  2. What is something you want to learn that is not on the syllabus?
  3. In what ways has this course helped you learn? What would help you learn better?
  4. What have you done so far that has helped you learn? What could you do differently for the rest of the term that will help you learn better?
  5. What seems challenging about completing the work for this class?
  6. What worries you about this class? What might help you feel more confident?
  7. What questions do you have about the course that I can answer for you and other students?
What are some ways to get midcourse feedback?
  • Use the Zoom Poll feature. You can post simple questions with multiple choice responses. Zoom offers several options for engaging students in addition to the Polling feature.
  • Ask students to respond to an anonymous survey. Google Forms is quick, user-friendly, and free to use for collecting responses from students.
  • Create an ungraded survey using the Quizzes tool in Canvas.
  • Hold small group discussions. Create a set of questions and ask students to choose a scribe who will take notes on the discussion and share them with you. You could also set up an asynchronous discussion using the Discussions tool in Canvas.
  • If it is difficult to get students to provide feedback, you can ask your graduate teaching assistant or learning assistants to share information that they get from students, or ask them to host a feedback session.
Learn teaching strategies from your students!

Students are one of your best sources of information about innovative teaching. They pick up effective strategies from their other instructors and can pass them on. When I finally encouraged my students to talk about the 12-page paper, they told me that another professor had set up a series of deadlines to divide the work of a long paper into manageable pieces. They told me that if I gave them deadlines like these, they could write the paper. I promised to hold them accountable to the mini deadlines, and they kept their end of the deal, too. Not only did they all finish the work, those papers were really enjoyable to read.