Student evaluations, since they are anonymous and revealed only after courses end, do not always help the students that are currently enrolled. So I like to ask for anonymous mid-semester feedback. This gives students a chance to suggest minor improvements or make requests, or to report on material that they liked.
Besides the usual and helpful suggestions, and also showing students that you actually are responsive to their needs, an unexpected benefit was that this gets you compliments! My students said so many nice things about my course. So if you want to do right by your students and treat yourself to some positive reinforcement, do mid-semester feedback.
As motivation for you, here are some of the nice things that students said about my course:
- I like the interesting and different topics discussed in class. It is a thought provoking environment.
- I enjoy the discussions. Debating theories is fun.
- I enjoy the discussion based format.
- I like the in class discussion. It helps me understand the material better.
- The teaching style [is] very open. I enjoy being comfortable and saying “I don’t know” and not feeling like it’s a bad thing.
- I like the chill atmosphere and that you are lenient but not too lenient. Also, we have great discussions.
- I like that the class is structured based on daily teaching objectives and class is discussion based.
- I really enjoy how we engage in class, it helps me understand the context better.
- I like how it forces me to think deeper and form questions that I normally wouldn’t think about.
- I really like the fact that I have to think hard about the answer.
Besides this shamelessly self-promotional material, I also got thoughtful remarks about:
- assessment aspects of the course, like a suggestion that there be more spacing between discussing a reading and submitting an assignment,
- the comparative difficulty of various readings, which is always a useful opportunity to reflect on the course content and making adjustments to the syllabus, and
- the in-class presentation and discussion of the material, like a request for more historical background to philosophers and their ideas—which, as a historian of philosophy, I am only too happy to oblige!
So you get concrete suggestions for improvement and a confidene boost to boot. In summary, the takeaway regarding mid-semester feedback is: do it!