Midterm Assessment Strategies

Mid-semester Course Evaluations

Course evaluations are a valuable form of indirect evidence used in the study and assessment of student learning. Course evaluations can be used in both formative (Mid-semester course evaluations) and summative assessment (End-of-term course evaluations). On behalf of the Trinity College and in collaboration with academic departments, the Office of Assessment administers end-of-term course evaluations for eligible undergraduate courses. The Office of Assessment does not administer mid-semester course evaluations on behalf of the college, though an instructor may still wish to administer mid-semester course evaluations to their students. Collecting mid-semester course evaluations offers multiple benefits, including the opportunity to immediately inform current teaching and learning within a course, as well as addressing the unique concerns or desires of currently enrolled students.

Mid-semester course evaluations should typically aim to answer the following three question:

  1. What aspects of class are going well and what needs improvement?
  2. What changes in the course would benefit student learning?
  3. What are the mid-semester benchmarks to help you interpret end of term data?

When developing mid-semester course evaluations an instructor may wish to focus on the following course elements:

  • Course Content
  • Course Instruction
  • Classroom Dynamics
  • Course Assignments and Feedback
  • Course Policies
  • Instructional Technologies

Many instructors will find an online, anonymous survey of their students to be the most effective way of gathering mid-semester feedback. To support this assessment strategy the Office of Assessment has curated a library of questions, available within Qualtrics, for instructors to access and use as they develop their own mid-semester course evaluations. Qualtrics is a survey tool available free for Duke users through a university-wide license. Duke University’s Initiative on Survey Methodology at the Social Science Research Institution (SSRI) provides instructions and workshops for using Qualtrics: https://dism.ssri.duke.edu/survey-help/qualtrics-help

For additional information on accessing this library of question please consult the following guide: Qualtrics Question Library - OATC Guide

Additional methods for collecting mid-semester feedback

In lieu of, or in addition to, an instructor using an anonymous online survey to collect mid-semester feedback he or she may wish to use other formative assessment methods to gauge student learning in the classroom. This can include the following methods:

Small group feedback sessions

Making time in class for students to share their perceptions on the course can be a great way to  quickly and easily get themed feedback from a class. Conducting small group feedback sessions can also give students a chance to hear their peers perceptions of the course, sometimes adjusting their own understanding of course material through these interaction – for example someone may perceive the out-of-class assignments as disorganized or irrelevant though may recognize their benefit after hearing classmates explain why the assignments have been helpful.


Third party classroom observations

Classroom observations can be a valuable opportunity for reflection and growth. The information gathered through classroom observations can help inform your teaching practice and pedagogy. While classroom observations may not provide particular insight into students’ learning and development they can help guide your approach to instruction in the classroom.


Classroom Observation Notes – Stanford University

Duke’s Visit a Classroom program provides Duke faculty with an opportunity to observe their colleagues teaching in their classrooms. More information can be found here on Duke’s Learning Innovations website.

Best Practices

Keep it simple and short

Try and keep the feedback process simple and direct. The easier you make this process for students the more likely you will be to receive useful feedback. For anonymous surveys give students time in class to get started. Think about what will work best in the context of your particular course.

Choose the right questions

Which two or three aspects of your class do you wish to know more about? When developing your questionnaire, consider using the Office of Assessment’s curated library of questions available through Qualtrics. More information on accessing and using this library can be found here.

Choose the appropriate method

Consider your course pedagogy when determining the best methodology for collecting mid-semester feedback. Which methodology will be most likely to give you the type of feedback you are seeking? If you would like to discuss strategies for collecting mid-semester feedback please contact the Office of Assessment.

Follow up on the feedback you’ve received

Responding in a timely fashion – usually within one to two class meetings of completing the mid-semester evaluations – is important. This reinforces to students that you are listening to what they have to say. You may wish to provide a brief summary of the most common comments, as well as areas in which there seem to be a wide difference of opinion (e.g. some student report the class moving too quickly while other report it progressing too slowly). Discuss which comments you plan to act on during the semester, which comments must wait until the next semester, and which ones you will not act on (and why). Sharing your pedagogical rational for not making certain changes can also be valuable for students – helping clarify the intentions behind your course design and how the curriculum aligns with your understanding of student learning. Thank the students for their feedback and encourage an ongoing dialogue. 

Updated February 2019