Spring 2024: The Midterm Check-in

I enjoyed Cathy’s post from last week, in which she presented UCL’s approach to engage in student dialogue rather than receive “consumer feedback” at the end of the semester – aka the classic student evaluations. Earlier check-ins regarding our teaching are more useful than reviewing the game tapes over winter break. Our future students will benefit from it, but our past students just had to sit with it. As the new semester approaches rapidly (at least for me, Monday is rapidly approaching), and as I looked over my feedback from last semester, I can’t help to add even more things to my list of new semester resolutions: a midterm check-in with my students on what is working and what is not.

I went without one last semester, and I don’t remember for the life of me why I made that choice. But the anonymous midterm check-in is back! The tool outlined below is another treasure I brought with me to adult academic life from the trenches of my graduate student days. I unfortunately do not know where my mentor received the template below or whether they even invented it, so I am unable to give the most appropriate credit or provide a proper citation for the tool below.

Unlike the UCL model, I will only administer it once – right before spring break. This allows me to make any necessary pivots and course-correct the second half of the semester. I think UCL’s Mentimeter is a great interactive tool, allowing real time feedback from the class to pop up on the screen, but somehow three proposed session seem a bit much – both for the students and I.

Instead, my check-in is a relative simple four question questionnaire, which I print out and have the students fill out by hand. Facilitating it takes about 5-10 minutes. Keeping it relatively short means that 1) students are not prompted to write lengthy essays, and 2) it does not interrupt too much your own class time and causes not too much distraction.

Check-in questions:

  1. What has the professor been doing so far in class that has enhanced your learning?
  2. What could the professor improve upon to enhance your learning?
  3. What have you been doing so far to support your own learning?
  4. What can you improve upon to enhance your own learning?

All four questions force the student to assess how their own learning is going in class. That can obviously mean different things for each of them, but the questions require much more introspection – and not opinions about my office (aka the dungeon). There is also a clear divide between what I am doing for them in the classroom and their learning, and what they have been doing on their own to support their learning. In previous iterations, I received questions about whether I could share my slides before class (so they could take notes while in class) and reflections regarding their participation in class (and how they need to work on that).

Has anybody here done something similar? What have been your takeaways?