Whenever I advise someone on assessment, I always start with the question, “What do you want to know?” The same question makes a lot of sense when thinking about course evaluations and midterm evaluations. While most instructors don’t have control over final course evaluations (I suppose the idea is that the questions asked are what administrators want to know), we by and large do have control over the questions we ask on midterm evaluations. Richard Talbert, chair of mathematics at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, writes about getting dynamic student feedback through a five-question summary with an elaborate system for tracking student perceptions over a whole course, But the questions he uses would be great for any kind of mid-course check-up. The statements he asks students to reflect on are:

  • I was challenged intellectually by the content and activities this week.
  • I had plenty of support from the professor, my classmates, and the course tools as I worked this week.
  • I am closer to mastering the ideas of the course now than I was at the beginning of the week.
  • I made progress in learning this week because of my own efforts and choices.
  • I felt I was part of a community of learners this week.

He describe the way he uses these questions each week, including Python code and graphs, and the whole post is worth reading. But I was intrigued by the reasons he uses these five questions. The first two he asks to make sure he has the right balance between challenge and support in his classes. The last three he asks to see how the students are progressing on being self-determined learners in his class, based on Self-Determination Theory. I think both of these targets are excellent ones for midterm evaluations, and do a lot better than going for a broader survey. When one has developed some principles behind a teaching practice, it makes sense to concentrate on those rather than simply trying to get a preview of what course evaluations might look like at the end of the term if your instruction doesn’t change.

“why do humans q”by meadowsaffron is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0