Understanding the Mid-Semester Formative Assessment

Audience: Faculty and Staff

This KB Article References: Course Evaluations (Faculty & Administrators)
This Information is Intended for: Faculty, Staff
Last Updated: March 22, 2017

Quite often, it is useful to receive feedback from a large number of students early enough in the semester to make mid-course adjustments to improve the student learning experience. 

You may want to administer a two-question survey which asks students:

  • What does your instructor do particularly well? and,
  • What could the instructor do better?

The mid-semester survey is used as a formative assessment designed solely to provide information and feedback to an instructor and to allow for development and improvement of a course in progress.

At the faculty member's request, the Faculty Center assessment experts can work with you to address any critical issues arising from the survey. The research literature shows that using a mid-semester survey to solicit student feedback as a formative assessment process provides students with the confidence that their voice in the learning process is valued by the professor and the University, and generally results in higher end-of-semester course evaluations.

The University of Virginia provides an excellent example of this research:

"Although the primary purpose for student perception data collected through mid-term and end-of-course evaluations is for course improvement, the two differ slightly. End-of-course evaluation data is a type of summative assessment. Though helpful "next time," summative assessments typically happen too far down the learning path to provide information at the classroom level and to make instructional adjustments and interventions during the learning process. In contrast, mid-term feedback is a type of formative assessment. Formative assessments provide information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are happening. Research has shown that the benefits of collecting mid-term feedback is especially effective when it is part of a faculty development program that includes personal consultation."

Cohen, P.A. (1980). Effectiveness of student-rating feedback for improving college instruction: A meta-analysis of findings. Research in Higher Education, 13, 321-341.

Instructor Perspective: "Engaging Evaluations: Helping Students Consider Their Learning" by Cassandra Fraser

Instructor Perspective: "Using a Mid-Term Evaluation to Give Students Responsibility for the Course"by Nancy Loevinger

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