Give Professors Midterms Too

Laura Doan

During end-of-semester Course Instructor Surveys, students are encouraged to voice problems they’ve had with teaching and assessment. These problems can be small — things such as “I wish students were given more space to ask their own questions during class.” Or they can be large things such as, “This class had less structure than a kindergarten tap-class.”

But no matter what a student writes, their comments never benefit them directly. Courses are over by the time students give reviews so any suggestions only benefit future classes.  Professors should ensure that all their courses include mid-semester feedback, which allows immediate implementation of student suggestions. 

Canvas already provides instructions for administering midterm evaluations and UT’s Faculty Innovation Center has enumerated their many benefits, but so few professors conduct them that only 14 percent of undergrads surveyed are aware they even exist. The Senate of College Councils new proposal S.R. 1715 urges UT to promote mid-semester feedback more aggressively. Implementing this is a start, but teachers need to consider the benefits for both their students and themselves, and offer mid-semester feedback opportunities.

Learning is a partnership, and it works better with communication. Mid-semester feedback provides closer student-teacher dialogue. These evaluations empower students to take an active role in their own learning and give teachers the opportunity to teach toward the goals and learning preferences of a particular class. 

Mid-semester evaluations are also more likely to yield better, more specific suggestions for professors who have a lot at stake in student evaluations. As Dr. Jamie Pennebaker, special advisor to the Provost, said in a UT video: “On a broader level from the university, course evaluations are important for raises, for promotions, for everything.” Students no longer invested in a class are more likely to rush through CIS evaluations and leave vague comments.  If evaluations are conducted midterm, students will have personal incentive to provide detailed, specific responses. 

Right now would be the perfect time for mid-semester feedback. It’s mid-February, a quarter through coursework, and most 40 Acres students are in study mode for the first round of big essays, tests and projects. At this point, students are familiar enough with their teachers’ teaching and assessment styles to voice frustrations and provide suggestions. Professors need to allow students to effectively communicate them.  

The University and its professors can better serve students who have been bubbling scantrons and scrawling out reviews of a teacher they may never interact with again.  Midterm evaluations lead to more communicative classrooms and higher quality data, which means better teaching and better learning. 

Professors, ask for feedback. Help your  students and help yourselves.

Laura Doan is an English and Plan II junior from Fort Worth. She is a senior columnist.