Mid-Course Feedback

Mid-semester surveys are a great way to gauge what students are thinking about a course and how an instructor can potentially address concerns before the end of the semester. This feedback strategy asks students to reflect on what helps and hinders their learning and solicits their suggestions for improvement. 

Ways to Collect Mid-Course Feedback

When it comes to administering a survey of students in your class, you have many options.

  • In-class or out-of-class: You will likely get more responses if you administer the survey in-class. Of course, that also requires you to dedicate some valuable classtime to administering the survey. Since some students will take longer than others to complete the survey, if you administer it in-class you could consider making it the last activity so those who complete the survey quickly can leave.
  • Online or on paper: For smaller classes, it may be feasible to conduct the survey using a paper instrument that you print and bring to class. For larger classes, it may not feasible to print survey instruments much less read through all of them after they’ve been completed and systematically organize the responses. Administering the survey online ensures that responses are legible and provides many more options for data analysis.
  • Anonymous, confidential, or identified: Linking student identities to their survey responses may dissuade some students from providing forthright responses. On the other hand, anonymous surveys can, in some rare instances, elicit abusive or inappropriate responses. It may be possible to weave a middle ground and make identities confidential if you can involve a third-party in the administration of your survey but that adds significant complexity. (It may be possible to use Canvas to do this to some degree as the anonymous option for Canvas surveys can be turned on or off, making it possible for you to initially make a survey anonymous but allowing you to change that later. This seems to raise some ethical complexities…)

When feasible, we recommend that mid-course feedback be collected in-class via on online tool such as a Google Form, Canvas survey, or Qualtrics survey. We also recommend the survey be anonymous; we hope that you have established a classroom community and have students who are highly unlikely to provide inappropriate feedback.

Questions to Consider

  1. Use some or all of the questions used in your end-of-semester course evaluation. That would give you an opportunity to receive that feedback early and either make changes or explain why changes cannot or will not be made.
  2. Use a “Stop-Start-Continue” survey and ask;
    • “What should we STOP doing in this class because it is not helping you learn?
    • What can we START doing in this class that would help you learn?
    • What should we CONTINUE doing in this class that is helping you learn?”

Additionally, you can include questions specific to the class to address concerns that have arisen so far in the semester or that have been on your mind since you designed or redesigned the course. 

How to Make Sense of the Responses

Faculty who have experience with content analysis, qualitative research, and other methods and methodologies that collect and analyze textual data are often comfortable summarizing the results of open-ended survey questions. For those who do not have that experience, we recommend this simple approach for each question:


  1. Read through all of the responses. As you perform this initial read through, begin taking notes about topics that are occurring frequently.
  2. Read through all of the responses again. This time, assign each response a category based on your initial reading. If you cannot easily assign a response to a category, move on and maybe come back later.
  3. Count the number of responses in each category. If some categories are small, consider if they can be combined with other categories. If some categories are very large, consider whether they should be broken into different categories. (These decisions related to categorization – what counts as a valid category, how many is “small” and how many is “too large” – can be very complex. Try not to get too caught up in getting these decisions just right. You will develop a feel for them as you gain experience doing this. And remember that you’re not analyzing data to include in a peer-reviewed publication – do it well but balance that with your available time and expertise.)
  4. Identify and focus on two sets of responses:
    1. Responses with large counts. If many students said the same general thing or provided feedback about the same topic, that probably warrants consideration.
    2. Responses that strongly resonate with you. If some students identify something that you have really wondered about or were already considering changing, that probably warrants consideration, too.

What To Do With the Feedback?

After collecting and analyzing the feedback data comes the process of communicating your findings back out to your students; this is a crucial part of the mid-semester survey process. Present your “findings,” to the class– this shows them how their input is thoughtfully used to improve the course. If you feel inclined to make any changes, explain what in their feedback led you to those changes. If you will not make changes, explain how your decision was made.

Your CTAL colleagues are happy to review mid-course feedback and work with you to determine what changes, if any, should be made.

Need a survey template?

Google forms provide an easy way to share a link with the class (and collect their responses in a spreadsheet that only you can access). Feel free to copy, tweak, and share this survey template