Early/Midterm Course Evaluation

Solicit feedback and engage students

Classes vary from semester to semester. Even when your course design is mature, each new group of students brings a different mix of prior knowledge, skills, and attitudes that affect the class climate and experience. Gathering feedback by the middle of the term from students can be a valuable tool that will enable you to:

  • Manage a dynamic classroom environment
  • Make instructional adjustments to improve students’ learning
  • Show students that you value their input (which can motivate them to engage more deeply in your course)

Gathering feedback from students by the middle of the term offers several benefits:

  • Each group of students brings a different mix of experiences, prior knowledge, and attitudes, making even established courses different each time you teach them; soliciting student input can help you manage this dynamic classroom environment.
  • While it is unlikely that you will make major changes mid-course, feedback can help you identify instructional adjustments to improve students’ learning.
  • Soliciting feedback shows students that you value their input, which may motivate them to engage more deeply in your course.
  • Once you have analyzed feedback, you have the opportunity to explain some of your instructional decisions to students.

There are a variety of different approaches you might consider for soliciting student feedback.

Open-Ended Feedback Questions

Short instruments of a limited number of open-ended questions designed to solicit feedback along dimensions you might not think of yourself.

Many sources suggest a very open-ended approach to soliciting formative feedback from students. This enables students to comment on things that are important to them that you may not anticipate. There are several versions of “three question” surveys, such as:

  1. What in the class so far has helped your learning the most?
  2. What in the class so far has hindered your learning?
  3. What suggestions do you have to improve the course?


Download a Word document containing several open-ended surveys

Download the PLUS/DELTA survey (Helminski & Koberna,1995), another open-ended technique, which asks students to consider their own contribution to their learning, as well as the instructor’s. Using a two-column grid, students comment on what is contributing to their learning and what could improve their learning.

Helminski, L. & Koberna, S. (1995). Total quality in instruction: A systems approach. In H. V. Roberts (Ed.), Academic initiatives in total quality for higher education (pp309-362). Milwaukee, WI: ASQC Quality Press.)

Short Surveys

Quantitative instruments that target specific questions about your class.


Download this survey (based on instruments developed by the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching)

Download this short instrument based on the 7 Principles for Smart Teaching described in How Learning Works (Ambrose et al, 2010)

In-Depth Analysis of Learning Environments

Longer surveys designed to analyze the teaching and learning environment of your class based on goals and/or learning principles.

Based on the 7 Principles for Smart Teaching described in How Learning Works (Ambrose et al, 2010), CATLR has designed an instrument to help instructors identify specific issues related to teaching and learning. A CATLR consultant can help you interpret your results. Download the PDF.

Small Group Analysis

In-person focus groups with your students conducted by a consultant.

Small Group Analysis (SGA) involves the instructor leaving class for a portion of one class period (usually about 20 minutes) while a consultant conducts a form of a focus group with students. The feedback from the students is then synthesized and communicated to the instructor. (At Northeastern, you can arrange for a consultant from CATLR to conduct a session.)

The steps in this process are:

  1. The instructor and consultant meet to discuss goals and agree on questions for the session.
  2. The consultant visits the class. The instructor introduces the consultant and explains that they have asked them to gather feedback, then leaves.
  3. Students are divided into small groups and are asked to compile responses to one question. The groups then report out while the consultant records responses. This process is repeated for each question.
  4. Consultant synthesizes the feedback and reports back to the instructor. The consultant and instructor may discuss how the data can inform teaching practices.

The benefits of using an SGA include:

  • The feedback is being gathered by a neutral third party, which may encourage honesty among students.
  • The consultant can help you shape the questions asked of students and interpret results.

To request consultation on implementing one of these strategies, email CATLR.