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Notes on Teaching and Learning

Improve Your Teaching with Early-Semester Feedback

February 15, 2022
ND Learning

By Haley Dutmer

You don’t have to wait for CIFs (end-of-semester student evaluations) to get feedback from your students on your teaching. Early semester feedback is an effective and efficient tool for improving both your teaching and your students’ learning before you and your students part ways. Here’s three reasons you shouldn’t wait to gather student feedback, and three suggestions for how to get started collecting feedback in your course today.


WHY: Three Reasons to Solicit Early Semester Feedback

  1. Improve your students’ learning experiences. Asking your students for feedback on your teaching early in the semester gives you the chance to better promote your current students’ learning while you are still their instructor! When you only get feedback from your students at the end of the course, it can only have an impact on your future students.
  2. Improve your teaching. Teaching is a craft–it takes practice. Your students’ feedback is an invaluable resource for your growth. Just as your feedback is valuable for your students’ development, their feedback is valuable for your development too!
  3. Improve your CIFs. Gathering early feedback from your students shows your students that you care about their learning and value their input. Making changes on the basis of their comments will not only help your students learn, but will also increase their general satisfaction with your course which often leads to higher end-of-semester course evaluations.


HOW: Three Steps to Soliciting Early Semester Feedback

  • Create a survey. A short, anonymous survey is a great way to get feedback from your students. You can give students in-class time to complete the survey to get a higher response rate.

Feel a bit overwhelmed by the idea of creating a survey? A student feedback survey doesn’t need to be complex. A simple survey can still be effective. For example, you can use the following 4-question model:

  1. What would you like the instructor to start doing?
  2. What would you like the instructor to keep doing?
  3. What would you like the instructor to stop doing?
  4. Any other feedback for the instructor?
  • Analyze results and determine changes. After your students have submitted their feedback, read it over carefully with an open mind. Look for patterns and themes in their responses. 

If there are recurring themes, consider whether you should make any changes to your course. If you decide to not make a change students have suggested, consider why not. If students communicate interest in certain topics or activities, could you adapt your future lesson plans to better align with their interests?

  • Discuss the results with your students. Once you’ve decided how you will use your student feedback, let your students know! Express gratitude to your students for sharing their thoughts with you. Tell the students what changes you are making to the course in light of their feedback. 

If there was a common suggestion that you have decided not to take, let your students know why. For example, if several students requested lecture recordings but you have decided against it, explain your rationale and suggest an alternate resource that can meet the students’ needs (e.g., handouts, slides, etc.). Invite students to have a conversation with you if they would like to discuss their class experience with you further.


Graduate students, are you looking for peer feedback on your teaching?

Sign up for the Kaneb Center’s Graduate Peer Observation Program to have an experienced graduate student observe your class/tutorial/discussion section in this confidential, low-stakes opportunity for formative feedback!

All observations will be scheduled before March 25, and on a first come, first served basis. Fill out this form to send us your teaching schedule and preferred dates for observation. A trained graduate associate of the Kaneb Center will contact you and observe a day of your class. After the observation, you will meet for a short discussion on what went well and suggestions for improvement.


Gathering Early Semester Student Feedback – Notre Dame Learning

Instructor Support & Development – Notre Dame Learning

Effectively Using Informal Early Feedback – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign