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Spotlight on Teaching and Learning: Mid-Semester Check-In – Parts 1 and 2

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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Let students know what you learned, and what, if anything, will be adjusted based on their input.


The posting below is in two parts and is taken from articles from the Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning.  “Part 1 (October 15, 2020), which was featured in Tomorrow’s Professor last fall, highlighted the benefits of implementing a mid-semester check-in and shared strategies for navigating student feedback productively. Part 2 (March 15, 2021) takes a second look at mid-semester check-ins to share new strategies for implementing student feedback activities in remote classrooms. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License 2013 (may be reproduced with credit for non-commercial purposes. Copyright © 2021 UC Regents; all rights reserved.


Rick Reis

UP NEXT: A Lab of One’s Own: One Woman’s Personal Journey Through Sexism in Science(Review) 


Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning

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Spotlight on Teaching and Learning: Mid-Semester Check-In – Parts 1 and 2


Part 1. October 15, 2020

There are a number of benefits to implementing a mid-semester check-in. In addition to the targeted feedback provided to instructors, some studies suggest that soliciting student input can influence how students view their roles as members of the learning community and can bolster positive perceptions of their learning and the learning environment (Hurney, et al, 2014; Hunt, 2003; McGowan & Osguthorpe, 2011). It can also be a valuable moment for both students and instructors to be metacognitive about learning and teaching, and to acknowledge the shared circumstances that are making the Fall of 2020 so difficult for both faculty and students.

Conducting a Mid-Semester Check-In

What do you want to learn more about?

In designing the questions to ask students, consider the aspects of student and learning experiences that you’re curious about and the type of information you hope to gather. It may be helpful to revisit the course goals and the teaching strategies you have implemented to determine what student input might be most informative. Also, consider questions that encourage students to be specific and self-reflective in their responses  Rando, 2001(link is external)(and Tanner, 2021 (link is external for discussion and examples). Yale’s Poorvu Center suggests the following 4 open-ended questions(link is external)(link is external) as a core for a mid-semester check-in:

·       What is working well for you in this class? What are you struggling with? 

·       What is helping you learn? What is not working? 

·       What could the instructor change to improve your learning experience in this class? 

·       What could you do differently to improve your learning experience in this class?

Likert-scale questions indicating agreement of disagreement with various statements (1-5 with 5 = Strongly Agree and 1 = Strongly Disagree) can also be useful. General examples include:

·       I am engaged in this class.

·       I am learning from the ________. (Fill in the blank with a learning modality: lectures, textbook, online modules, etc.)

·       I understand what I need to do to do well in this class.

·       When I need it, I am able to get help in understanding the material.

·       I am worried about my performance in this course.

Instructors may also want to specifically collect information about technology issues or other difficulties specific to remote instruction.

·       Technology issues have made my engagement with the class more challenging.

·       I can engage remotely and work with minimal distraction.

How should I collect the data?

You can collect input from students in a number of ways. For example, you might set up an anonymous bCourses quiz, or use a survey tool like Google Forms or Qualtrics. Some instructors might also use small group discussion-based activities to surface emerging themes across students’ feedback. To help facilitate an anonymous and confidential discussion environment for your students, connect with the Center for Teaching and Learning to request a Mid Semester Inquiry. 

Try answering the questions, too.

As you prepare questions that you will pose to students, consider taking a moment to reflect on them as well. You might also take this time to engage in additional metacognitive reflection around teaching:

“...developing a metacognitive stance toward one's own teaching—thinking about how you think about teaching—can be a wonderfully natural entry point into iteratively changing one's own teaching practice. Self-analysis about one's own ideas about teaching could include: What assumptions do I hold about students? To what extent do I have evidence for those assumptions? Why do I make the instructional decisions that I make? What do I know about teaching? What would I like to learn? What am I confused about? These analyses can also become more specific to particular granularities, ranging from an individual class session to the scope of an entire course.” (Tanner, 2012)

This table(link is external)provides some example questions that instructors may find helpful in reflecting on their teaching.

Examining and Sharing the Responses

In addition to collecting and evaluating the responses yourself, sharing your findings with students is also an important part of the process. In reporting results back to students, we signal that their ideas were carefully considered and emphasize that their time and thoughtful feedback is appreciated and valued. Additionally, it can highlight variation in learning experiences and perceptions among their peers.

The following section includes advice on examining and responding to students’ feedback, adapted from Barbara Davis and Steve Tollefson and Tools for Teaching.

Carefully consider what students say and identify any patterns.

First, look over the positive things students have shared about the course. This is important because negative comments can often be more salient to us. It’s also important to know what’s working well! Then read the suggestions for improvement.

For both positive and constructive feedback, try reading through the responses and sorting them into categories. Are there common ideas or overlapping comments? As with other forms of qualitative data, identifying patterns and themes in student responses can help us parse varied feedback.

Let students know what you learned, and what, if anything, will be adjusted based on their input.

Thank students for their comments and invite their ongoing participation in helping to improve the course. You might offer a summary of common ideas, or note areas where you identified conflicting student perspectives. Be sure to also provide a brief account of which of their most common suggestions you can act upon this term, which you will use to inform the next iteration of the course, and which you will not act upon and why. If you have collected mid-semester feedback in previous courses, you might also share how you have used these past comments to make changes. These are important follow-up steps, as explaining pedagogical choices can also influence how students experience learning environments (Seidel et al, 2015; Harrison et al, 2019; Deslauriers et al, 2019).

Are You Interested in Conducting a Mid-Semester Check-In?

Colleagues at the Center for Teaching and Learning would be happy to meet with you to discuss any part of the process, including question design or, if you have already collected input, debriefing and understanding your findings. Email, or visit our consultation calendar to schedule a meeting.

Instructors can also learn about student experiences generally through existing multi-institutional surveys and reports. For example, results of this

COVID-19 Student Survey(link is external) were shared in the summer and may offer some helpful insights.

Part 2. March 15, 2021

Mid-semester check-ins are an opportunity to learn more about students’ learning and their experiences in the classroom. In October’s Spotlight on Teaching and Learning, CTL highlighted the benefits of implementing a mid-semester check-in and shared strategies for navigating student feedback productively. We’re taking a second look at mid-semester check-ins to share new strategies for implementing student feedback activities in remote classrooms.

Why Conduct a Mid-Semester Check-In? 

Checking in with your students at key points throughout the semester can provide insight into how students are experiencing our courses. As instructors, we can use this information to inform changes while the semester is ongoing, or inform changes to our courses in the future. Research suggests that students perceive their learning progress and participation differently from instructors (Carpenter, Witherby, and Tauber 2020, Deslauriers, et al. 2019). We can use student feedback to identify and narrow these perception gaps.

Conduct a Mid-Semester Check-in Remotely 

You can easily administer a mid-semester survey using the survey tool in bCourses(link is external)a template developed using the core Canvas tools available to all instructors, includes a mid-semester survey already populated with the questions highlighted in October’s Spotlight on Teaching and Learning

Read more about the mid-semester survey available in the Core Template and how to use it in your bCourses site in the DLS resource, Include Beginning of the Course and Mid-semester Surveys(link is external).


Let CTL Collect Student Feedback for You! 

Learn more about your students’ learning experiences while your course is in progress by requesting a Mid-Semester Inquiry (MSI). MSI consultation services include:

·       Meeting with a CTL Consultant to discuss your goals for students’ learning and share more about your course.

·       A CTL Consultant visits your class to facilitate a confidential focus group with your students for 25-30 minutes.

·       After the focus group, meet one-on-one with a CTL Consultant to debrief students’ feedback and receive a memo summarizing emerging themes and strategies for enhancing student learning.

Learn more about CTL Consultations --- We offer individual, small group, and departmental consultations to faculty, staff, and graduate students on any topic related to teaching and learning.  Email to request a consultation today!

References and Resources for Further Reading

Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom assessment techniques. Jossey Bass Wiley, 2012.

Carpenter, S. K., Witherby, A. E., & Tauber, S. K. (2020). On Students’(Mis) judgments of Learning and Teaching Effectiveness. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.

Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching. John Wiley & Sons.

Deslauriers, L., McCarty, L. S., Miller, K., Callaghan, K., & Kestin, G. (2019). Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(39), 19251-19257.

Harrison, C. D., Nguyen, T. A., Seidel, S. B., Escobedo, A. M., Hartman, C., Lam, K., ... & Balukjian, B. (2019). Investigating instructor talk in novel contexts: Widespread use, unexpected categories, and an emergent sampling strategy. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 18(3), ar47.

Hunt, N. (2003). Does mid-semester feedback make a difference?. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13-20.

Hurney, C. A., Harris, N. L., Prins, S. C. B., & Kruck, S. E. (2014). The impact of a learner-centered, mid-semester course evaluation on students. The Journal of Faculty Development, 28(3), 55-61.

 McGowan, W. R., & Osguthorpe, R. T. (2011). 12: Student and Faculty Perceptions of Effects of Midcourse Evaluation. To Improve the Academy, 29(1), 160-172.

Rando, W. L. (2001). Writing teaching assessment questions for precision and reflection. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2001(87), 77-83.

Seidel, S. B., Reggi, A. L., Schinske, J. N., Burrus, L. W., & Tanner, K. D. (2015). Beyond the biology: A systematic investigation of noncontent instructor talk in an introductory biology course. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 14(4), ar43.

Tanner, K. D. (2012). Promoting student metacognition. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 11(2), 113-120.