The Bok Center encourages all teachers to solicit and respond to student feedback in order to become a more mindful teacher. While we often think of student feedback in terms of the more formal course evaluations conducted at the end of the term, there are many ways to collect and respond to students' reports about their learning all through out the semester. Though they may not grasp the full arc of the course to the same degree as their instructor(s), students are in an excellent position to comment on how they are experiencing the organization of the course, the effectiveness of teaching, the relevance and volume of readings and assignments, their own process of learning, and their own investment in the course (as measured by workload and effort). In the materials on this page, we focus on three kinds of student feedback you might request: ongoing, early (or midterm), and end of semester.
While often we think of student feedback in terms of official evaluation forms like (at Harvard) the Q Guide, in fact we as instructors have the option of soliciting an almost constant stream of feedback from students through low-stakes exercises and relatively informal interactions in class and/or in office hours.
Early / Midterm Feedback
By asking students for feedback early or midway through a course, you provide yourself with the opportunity to learn what is working and not working in a class, and to make informed mid-course changes. Early feedback also provides you with an opportunity to have an open conversation with students about what can and cannot change about a class, improving transparency and revisiting the goals of the class and why it is run the way it is. Finally, by asking students to reflect on whether they are learning the things they need or want to learn, you are encouraging students to recognize the extent to which they, too, are responsible for what happens in the classroom.
End of Semester Feedback (i.e. the Q Guide)
Most universities use final course evaluations to solicit feedback from students. The results of these evaluations can be used to inform the next offering of the course, as well as—ideally in conjunction with many other forms of evidence of teaching effectiveness—the career trajectory of the instructor. How do you interpret summative feedback and use it to improve your teaching?