Stop, Go, Change...

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If I had a nickle for every time I've recommended the mid-semester evaluation to my faculty friends, I'd be spending my days sitting on a beach, with an umbrella drink, reading trashy novels.  (And now you know my plan for retirement.) A "well conducted" mid-semester evaluation can gather a plethora of interesting and useful information for the faculty member. We here at SITE recommend a mid-semester evaluation as one of the tools a faculty member should use in almost every consultation we do. I sometimes feel like a doctor explaining why exercise is the key to good health. Don't you get tired of hearing that? Is it only the fact that it is undeniably true that keeps you from banging your head on the nearest desk? Such is the case with mid-semester evaluations. They are sometimes scary, sometimes a PIA (you can look that up in the Urban Dictionary), but yield fascinating information when done well.

My prescription for a well done mid-semester evaluation is pretty simple (some of my colleagues will disagree with my contentions, but that's OK too).

  • It should be short - really short. The average student should not need more that 5 minutes to complete it and it will be easy for you to evaluate.
  •  It should appear random and not systematic. Like anything else, a student who becomes inured to an activity will begin to feel bored with it.
  • It should solicit information that you actually may be able to use.
  • Debrief, debrief, debrief. No matter what kind of feedback you get debrief it with the class. Of my four elements for a valuable mid-semester evaluation this is the most important.
Keeping in mind these simple rules I am "presenting" a new, to me, mid-semester evaluation that is both elegant and easy.

It's called Stop, Go, Change and it goes like this:

Distribute file cards to the class and ask them to make three comments as follows:

1.      Stop: something you don't like - can be about the professor, the class, the material, your fellow students, yourself, anything at all.

2.      Go: something you do like - ditto above.

3.      Change: something about your own learning - what do you need to do [more of or better] to succeed in this class?

Th  That's it. Give your class about 5 minutes (maximum) to complete the evaluation, collect the cards as they leave. Now sit down with your favorite comforting beverage, and read through them. You will get lots of information, and most of it will be interesting, if not useful. If there are suggestions that you can implement immediately, do it! If there are unreasonable suggestions (e.g., stop assigning homework), explain why your homework assignments are an integral part of your teaching and perhaps ask what might help the class complete homework assignments.

Th   Debriefing is the key to any good mid-semester evaluation. It says you heard and responded, even if you can't do what they ask.

 If    If you need help interpreting your evaluations, feel free to come in and speak to any one of us. We'll be delighted to give you a hand.

      Try it, you'll see - you won't be sorry.


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4 Comments

I totally agree that feedback activities need to be varied and short. Too often the amount of time far exceeds what students need, and boredom does indeed set in.

A faculty member at Behrend has been using the "Start, Stop, Continue" model for mid-semester evaluation for years. It's easy, casual, and it does invite rich feedback.

For junior faculty members or first-time offering of a course, do you think student feedback should be collected earlier than the mid point of the semester? Perhaps around the 5th or 6th week?

p.s.
PIA = Pittsburgh International Airport? Just kidding... or you meant PITA?

Hi Qi,
I think part of the decision depends on what has transpired so far in the course. For instance, if the first 5 weeks consists of mostly lectures with only a small assignment, I'm not sure I would collect feedback at that point. Personally, I would want to wait until at least one large assessment activity was completed, and grades returned to students, before soliciting feedback. This way, I would hope to receive more targeted feedback, focusing on what sorts of instructional strategies (lecture, homework, in-class activities) best prepared students for the assessment.

Very good point, Bart. Thanks!

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