Mid semester evaluation: Do it.

Mid semester evaluation: Do it.

This entry is part 9 of 44 in the series Teaching Transparently

http://thisisindexed.com/2011/08/keep-calm-and-carry-on/

 

We are at the 1/2 way spot in our semester. It’s midterm grading time (here the grades at midterm are pretty simple: Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory, Really Unsatisfactory and Never Seen This Person).  It is also a perfect time to ask the students to evaluate the teacher and the class.

Bring on the informal evaluation.

Here is how it works: Give the students 15 minutes at the end of class. They can answer some all or none of the questions. It is anonymous. The questions are any variation of the following:

What should START doing in this class?

What should STOP doing in this class?

What should we KEEP doing in this class?

What can the teacher do to help you improve your learning in this class?

What can your classmates do to help you improve your learning in this class?

Collate the answers, review them with the students the VERY NEXT class period. Put them in small groups and ask for comments, suggestions, next steps. And here is the most important thing: if the consensus is that a specific change needs to be made in order to improve the learning experience of many, then make it  happen.   Ahora. Ya.

Often the changes are very simple. For example, the results of my informal evaluation showed that the students liked small group/pair work. One student in the class, however, went a step further and explained in his/her survey that working in groups of three was better than paired work because it was a little less awkward and people could alternate speaking more easily. Done. A few people mentioned that they really liked spending the first 5 minutes of class with people “checking in” and talking about things on campus, events, stuff they did over the weekend, etc. Done.  A few people mentioned they might like to have caffeine.  I brought in a pot of coffee and hot water for the tea drinkers. Done.

The important thing is that if it can happen, you need to try your best to make it happen. Of course you can’t please everyone, nor should you try. But if tweaking things here and there is all that is needed…do it.

You might also be happily surprised by the results. Prior to giving out my survey, I found myself dreading the answers. The energy in the class was low, not many people talked, and I felt as if I was dominating the conversation. I was expecting the worst. Turns out, the consensus was that the teacher was doing fine, but the class needed to step up and take some risks and not be so passive. As one student put it “Speak more! We all will be pushed to get better if everyone has las ganas.”

My point is this: Don’t wait until the end of the term to ask how you could do  things better in the future. Ask NOW. And act on it. And then in a couple of weeks, ask again.

Remember: What we do in the classroom  is about their learning… it is not always about our teaching.  Informal evaluations make it possible for those two things to mutually support each  other  vs being at odds with one another.

Questions? Comments? Let me know.

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Barbara has been working for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for about 15 years. In addition to teaching Spanish she runs a somewhat unconventional language center. Prior to this adventure in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to write, read, swim, and watch the Red Sox. And sometimes she blogs over here and here as well...

6 Comments

  1. Jim · November 12, 2011 Reply

    I find a midterm test of where everyone is at has been insanely helpful in reviving the spirit and digging back in. And like you, anything I can do to make the final stretch more responsive, enjoyable, and engaging I will jump at. In turn, I demand they give me the same—it’s a virtuous circle!

    • Barbara · November 12, 2011 Reply

      A test, Jim, or a survey? I am thinking you meant survey. Testing is most faculty like to do at this time of year, and sure it is a good way to see how much content our students may or may not be ingesting. But that’s another thing….

      What I am interested in hearing at this moment in the term is their comments, their opinions, their suggestions for the class… and we can all work together to make it a better.

      Digging deeper, demanding more of each other… yerp. That in my mind is what teaching and learning is all about. It ain’t a one way street, no matter what our podium-centric colleagues might think.

  2. triplingual · December 16, 2011 Reply

    I feel like there are always more assessment result labels for sub-par performance than for average or above-average. Do I just have a skewed perspective? (For what it’s worth, I don’t know about others, but where I’ve been, a C is not treated as average.)

  3. Reviewing the Situation · December 16, 2011 Reply

    [...] Since I’ll be starting a new job on Monday and am in a particularly retrospective mood, I’m going to repurpose the crux of a Natalie Houston ProfHacker article from Hallowe’en and look back at the last few months. (I’m also shamelessly reusing the impetus from Barbara’s post of early November.) [...]

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