As Fall Break approaches, the time is ripe for instructors to pause and reflect on the semester so far. While it may seem daunting to evaluate a course as it is in progress and make adjustments midway through, taking a few moments to pause and ask yourself some questions can improve both your and your students’ experiences with the remainder of the semester. I suggest dividing this assessment into three categories: review, reflection, and revision.
Begin by revisiting your syllabus and assessing any artifacts from the first half of the semester. Some sources of information to consider are:
- Your notes from specific lectures/days/topics/discussions
- Any mid-semester student feedback that you collected
- Student grades and feedback on assignments, essays, and exams
- Your lesson plans from the first half of the semester
- The learning goals for the course
Once you have collected an overview of the first half of your course, take a moment to reflect on how it went overall. Consider how the reality of the first half compared to your expectations and plans for the course. Some questions to reflect on might include:
- When were your students most (or least) engaged in the material, and why?
- What aspects of your classes went as planned? What areas did not go as planned?
- Which components of any mid-semester feedback that you received can you learn from to optimize your teaching for the remainder of the semester?
- Which learning goals have your students met or made progress towards, and which still require additional time and work?
- What is the most important goal which you want your students to accomplish in the remainder of the semester?
After reflecting on the elements of your course that have gone well and the elements that may require alterations, consider what simple changes you can make to improve your students’ learning outcomes. Some questions to consider while planning the second half of your semester may be:
- How can you repeat the circumstances which earlier led to high student engagement?
- How might the experiences of your students be different in the second half of the semester? How might student workload change?
- What changes might you make to incorporate any relevant mid-semester feedback which you received?
- How can you focus on the skills and knowledge required for students to meet the remaining learning goals?
- How can you set up your students for success at accomplishing the most important remaining tasks/goals?
With these reflection questions in mind, you can gain a broader perspective on your semester so far, establish what has gone well and what may need further optimization, and determine what concrete steps you can take to finish the semester strong. If you are eager to learn more about the benefits of reviewing, reflecting on, and revising your course, check out the resources below. And if you would like some assistance to work through this process, be sure to schedule a consultation with the Kaneb center!
Resources for Further Reading