Early Feedback to Mid-Semester Assessment Techniques

Assessments are a way to measure our aim and determine our outcomes. Too often though assessments occur too late in the teaching and learning interaction. Most everyone uses assessments to determine grades and for summative purposes. However, assessments are beneficial to use throughout the semester to further engage both learners and instructors in improving the learning experience during the course. Learners are given the opportunity to provide feedback for the instructor on content, methods, and activities that are helpful or missing. Instructors then are given the opportunity to make changes accordingly and timely to help improve learning rather than waiting for the next iteration of the course in a subsequent semester.   

What is early feedback?

Early feedback can be given throughout the first few weeks of the semester. In fact, there are multiple assessments that can be used to gauge learning and the learner’s experience in a quick and efficient manner. Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) by Angelo and Cross (1993) and Learning Assessment Techniques (LATs) by Barkley and Major (2016) provide numerous suggestions for instructors to use effectively in the first four weeks of the semester. As well, mid-semester assessments are another means for checking in with learners on their learning and experience and allow enough time for instructors to make changes related to their methods and course changes.  

Why does it matter?

Early feedback is important because it allows learners to have a voice in their learning experience. As well, it is important because it allows instructors the chance to improve the course and their teaching to then result in better student outcomes and success. To seek more resources about assessments, please visit the CTL website.

How do I gather early feedback?

We have referred to LATs in this resource several times, but what is a LAT and why use it? A LAT is an evidence-based learning assessment technique that integrates the three elements (i.e., learning goals, learning activities, and outcomes assessment) of effective teaching. LATs support excellent teaching practices by helping educators identify, implement, and report direct evidence of learning with the goal of recognizing and making changes to improve learning.

How to use a LAT:

(1)   Identify significant learning goals

(2)   Implement effective learning activities

(3)   Analyze and share results of outcomes

But first, how do we differentiate between a learning goal, objective, outcome, activity, and assessment? According to Barkley and Major (2016), a learning goal allows you to see the target. A learning objective allows you to aim for the target. The learning outcome allows you to hit the target.

Think of learning goals as the road map, objectives as the road (i.e, skills, behaviors, attitudes, etc.) that gets you to the destination, and outcomes as the destination.
paper roadmap paved road in the desert person standing on top of a snowy mountain

Additionally as educators, we need to provide a means to achieve objectives and determine if outcomes have been reached. Imagine if you will, what type of vehicle do you want to drive to reach that mountain? Are you the driver or the co-pilot? Are you in a car that requires you to know how to shift gears manually and if so, how do you learn these steps? Activities are the resources and steps that learners need to engage in to aim for the target or desired destination (i.e., learning objectives).

Next, how will we know when we reached our destination or how well we hit that target (i.e., learning outcomes)? As mentioned earlier, assessments are a way to measure our aim and determine our outcomes. Along with the use of CATs or LATs, Ragupathi offers quick and effective ways to gather early and mid-semester feedback. Please click directly on the link for suggestions or visit the CTL website for more techniques.

What do I do with this feedback?

You have obtained your feedback, and now what? Take time to review your learners’ responses and reflect on those responses. Look for common themes that seem to tell a story among the learners. For example, is there a common response that leads to a greater sense of belonging, or perhaps the need for diversifying instructional methods? Keep in mind that it is easy to read responses with emotion; after all, you worked hard at creating your class and learning environment. Process those emotions for yourself, and then return to the feedback and review them for the changes you are able to make without the emotions. Without being defensive, communicate with learners if you need clarification or the reasons for changes you might be making. As always, feel free to reach out to CTL for a consultation.  

Further Reading & Resources:

 Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. Wiley.

  Barkley, E. F. & Major, C. H. (2016). Learning assessment techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Wiley.

 Ragupathi, K. (n.d.). Gathering formative feedback through mid-semester evaluations.