Getting Feedback from Students on the Classroom Community

Find out how your students experience community in your classroom.

 

The tools in this section, like all those in the Toolkit, are optional and can be adapted for use in any course. We focus here on how to use mid-course evaluations and end-of-course evaluations to assess community-building. Ideally, you would introduce these tools to students with an explanation of why community-building is important to you and what you hope to gain by reading their feedback.

 

Mid-course evaluations

Gathering feedback from students during the semester is optional (unlike final course evaluation) and can be an effective means of assessing how your teaching approach is influencing the student experience. It is recommended that you conduct mid-course evaluations while you still have time to respond to the feedback and make any desired adjustments (between weeks 4 and 7 for regularly scheduled courses.

Methods for mid-course evaluation

  • Online Survey in myCourses: instructors can create an anonymous online survey on myCourses. They are easy for students to complete, the comments will be legible, and it is possible to download reports. Learn more about surveys in myCourses.
  • Anonymous Discussion in myCourses: instructors can create an anonymous discussion topic in myCourses. Take note that instructors should select the option to "Allow Anonymous Posts" when setting up the topic. Instructors should inform their students that in order to send anonymous feedback, they should select the checkbox to "Post as Anonymous" before posting. Learn more about Discussions in myCourses.
  • Anonymous Polling Questions: instructors can use the Polling @ McGill service to solicit anonymous mid-course evaluation feedback. Polling @ McGill (previously known as “clickers”) is a technology-supported questioning strategy that allows for both multiple choice and open-ended questions. Please note that each question must be set to anonymous and you should configure your polling session so that results do not display in front of students. Learn more about Polling @ McGill.
  • One Minute Paper: at the end of class, instructors can ask students to pull out a sheet of paper and take one minute to answer a question, such as "What single thing could I change about my teaching that would improve this course for you?" Students then submit their paper to the instructor. Watch a video about the One Minute Paper.
  • Student-led Discussion: instructors can also receive oral feedback from the students as a group (as opposed to individual feedback). To ensure anonymity and allow students to speak freely, instructors leave the class for 10-15 minutes. In large classes, students should split into groups of no more than 20. Each group selects a facilitator and a reporter, and discusses constructive suggestions for the instructors (and TAs, where applicable) to improve the course. The reporter records the feedback and reports to the instructor immediately after class. We recommend that instructors agree on some guidelines with the students beforehand.
  • See detailed instructions for Small Group Diagnosis.

Questions to ask

  • The focus should be on areas where you are still able to make changes. Questions pertaining to future course offering should be reserved for end-of-course evaluations (Mercury) because students need to see that their feedback has an actual impact on the course.
  • Mid-course evaluations should not be long and complicated. We recommend three to four open-ended questions that address different areas of the course (e.g. content, presentation, learning environment/atmosphere).
  • Sample questions:
  1. What do you like best about the course and the instructor's teaching?
  2. If there were one thing that you could change about this course, what would it be?
  3. Do you feel comfortable expressing your opinions or asking questions in this course?
  4. Any specific areas of change (e.g. “should we continue the online discussion forums?” or “Do the voluntary review quizzes/other practice tools work for you?”)
  5. Is there a strategy that really works for you? If so, which one? (e.g. summary at the beginning of class, weekly quizzes, questions that accompany the reading material, class discussions, and or online discussions)
  6. What could you do to make the course better for you and the instructor?
  7. Is there an area where you would need more guidance/support to enhance your learning?
  8. Do you have any additional comments or concerns?

Sample Mid-Course Evaluation from the Faculty of Engineering

Acting on the feedback

  • Analyze and Reflect - the Comments Analysis Worksheet is intended for instructors and teaching assistants to help organize and make sense of student comments.
  • To help derive the most benefit from the student feedback, we encourage you to discuss them with a trusted colleague, your academic unit head, or someone from Teaching and Learning Services (TLS).
  • Discuss with the students
  • You should take some time to respond to the student feedback in the week following the evaluation.
  • Comments in the ongoing discussion board should be referred to in class and discussed as appropriate. This could be in the form of a brief summary of the main points raised by the students and ways in which you plan on addressing them.
  • If you will not be making changes to the course, you should still acknowledge the feedback and briefly explain the reasons for keeping the status quo.
  • Students should feel that their feedback is valued, even if it does not lead to changes.
  • Students should be encouraged to provide follow-up feedback on the end-of-course evaluation (Mercury).

More info

“MERCURY Mid-Course Evaluations.” McGill University. Web. <www.mcgill.ca/mercury/instructors/midcourse/>.

Weimer, Maryellen. "Benefits of Talking with Students about Mid-Course Evaluations." Faculty Focus. Magna Publications, 13 June 2016. Web. <https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/benefits-talking-students-mid-course-evaluations/>.

Adding questions to end-of-course evaluations

Instructors may add up to three questions to their course evaluation questionnaires to seek feedback on issues of particular interest, such as how students experienced the classroom as a community. In general, end-of-course evaluations provide valuable student feedback, and are one of the ways that McGill works towards maintaining and improving the quality of courses and the student’s learning experience.

Suggested procedure

  • To add questions, complete this form to send your additional questions to your unit's Mercury Departmental Liaison who will add them to your questionnaire.
  • If you are teaching different courses, you will need to fill out this form for each course.
  • Your unit's existing questionnaire can be found here. You may also wish to consult the Recommended Pool of Questions.
  • If you have any questions, please contact the Mercury System Administrator at mercury.info [at] mcgill.ca.

Sample questions

  • Overall, I felt like I was part of a community in this course. (Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree).

  • What was the main thing you learned in doing xxx assignment or in-class exercise? (If you included a new assignment/activity to promote community-building).

  • If there were one thing that you could change in this course to promote community-building, what would it be?

More info

“MERCURY Course Evaluations.” McGill University. Web. <www.mcgill.ca/mercury/>.

 


McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous people whose footsteps have marked this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.


Back to top