Laura Gibbs

Fall 2017 Blog Network (8): Student Midterm Assessments

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Oct 10, 2017

My school's Teaching Center sent around a really helpful mid-semester newsletter, and because they used an email newsletter service that also has a web form, I can link to it here:
CTE Mid-Term Newsletter – Fall 2017

In particular, have some good resources and examples there about doing mid-term student feedback, including information at their website about using Canvas for mid-term surveys: How to Collect Mid-Term Student Feedback in Canvas?


CTE newsletter screenshot


From semester to semester, I change the way I approach mid-term evaluations. Last year, I was contemplating a lot of big changes to my classes that I made over the summer, and so I solicited a ton of feedback from the students in both the Fall and Spring midterm evaluations that I could use in making those changes. The feedback was focused on me and the work I do in designing/teaching these classes, and that is the kind of feedback that the Teaching Center resources focus on in the link above. I used Google Form surveys with a mix of both scaled and open questions.


This semester, though, I took a really different approach, focusing on the students taking a self-assessment approach, totally open-ended, so that I could get a good sense of what they were experiencing in the class in the context of the many changes I made over the summer. So far, that is going really well! This week the students are writing three different blog posts; you can see the prompts here. The idea is to help them separate out the two main dimensions of the class — their own reading and writing, and then their interactions with other students — plus a third post assessing their progress so far and looking forward to the second half of the semester. Thanks to the power of Inoreader as the tool I use to manage the blog network, you can see a live stream of their responses here (that is all students, all three posts, across all three classes): Week 8 Feedback


Here's a screenshot as of this moment; the first post is due today, but some students have been working ahead:


screenshot of blog stream


By having the students reflect in this way, I hope it can be really useful for them, and I get lots of indirect feedback about what I am doing this way too.


Of course I also want them to be able to give me direct feedback, including anonymous feedback, so I have a Suggestion Box they can use at any time. It's a Google Form which is embedded in the daily announcements blog sidebar, and I also have it embedded in my Canvas courses at and I make sure to mention that in the prompts for these midterm evaluation posts too.


screenshot of suggestion box in canvas


So far, nobody has left me any feedback in the Suggestion Box this semester, but that's okay: the Suggestion Box is valuable as a statement of my openness whether or not students decide they want to use it.


Meanwhile, I am looking forward to their blog posts. I made big changes to the classes over the summer because of a mandated 20% increase in enrollment that totally strained my course design. From my perspective, the changes have been GREAT... but what I really need to hear is what the students think. The blog network gives them each their own space in which to reflect, and the power of RSS lets me see those reflections pulled together into a stream that I can follow easily in one place, learning from what they are all saying. More about the blog network: network2017


Is it around the middle of term at your school now? What kind of midterm evaluations do you find most helpful...?