Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Course Design > Midterm Surveys

Checking in with Students Using a Midterm Survey

Surveying your students at the midpoint of the quarter can offer you valuable insights into what is going well and not so well in the courses that you’re teaching. A midterm survey:

  • Helps you identify immediate improvements that you can make before the end of the term.
  • Benefits the students who provide the feedback, unlike end of quarter teaching evaluations which inform future iterations of the course.
  • Allows you to address your current students’ concerns and gives you an opportunity to communicate how you will respond to them.

Developing Midterm Survey Questions

Reflect on the reasons why you are soliciting student feedback in the first place. Do you want to gauge generally what is working well and what is not? Or are there specific elements of the course that you are already considering modifying? Be prepared to act on the feedback that you receive, and keep the survey short and specific enough to help you do so.

Example open-ended questions

  • What is helping you learn in this course?
  • What is limiting or hindering your learning in this course?
  • What can your instructor do differently to help you improve your learning?
  • What can you do differently to improve your learning?

More specific open-ended questions

  • Are you comfortable sharing opinions or asking questions in class or online? Why or why not?
  • Which class activity (e.g., Zoom breakout rooms discussion, online lab simulation, reflection essays) helps you learn best? Why?
  • Is there anything you expected to encounter in this course that we haven’t addressed yet?
  • Please describe your reading habits for this course (e.g., When do you do the readings? Do you take notes? etc.).

Example Likert-scale questions

  • The course schedule and assignment deadlines are clear.
  • The assignment details or project guidelines are clear.
  • The materials, activities, and/or assignments contribute to my learning.
  • I receive timely feedback and help, when needed.

The University of Toronto has published a great list of additional specific mid-term survey question prompts​ that can be tailored to your course and goals for soliciting feedback.

Choosing a Midterm Survey Tool

There are several ways you can create surveys. Some instructors prefer to use D2L surveys​ or Qualtrics​, while others find Google Forms a bit more user-friendly.

Sharing the Midterm Survey with Students

  • Explain your purpose for soliciting feedback, which may include a discussion about why you incorporated certain questions. If you’ve previously made adjustments based on student feedback, you might provide an example to emphasize how you value student feedback and the type student feedback that is most useful. Indicate that results are anonymous and in no way connected to grades.
  • Share your survey introduction and a link to your survey in a news item in your D2L course. You can also add a link and description of the survey in a specific module (e.g., Week 5).
  • Encourage students to contact you directly if they have individual questions or concerns, as you will not be able to identify them individually in the anonymous survey results.

Responding to Midterm Survey Feedback

Review the results with your goals for collecting feedback in mind. Focus on trends that you see in the feedback. Thank students again for their feedback, communicate a few general observations, and discuss how you plan to address the feedback.

These are some examples of the ways you might address student feedback:

Student Feedback: I don’t know when assignments are due.

Instructor Adjustment and Explanation: I noticed several students said they have difficulty managing the deadlines. I've added the remaining due dates to our course calendar. Please also download the Pulse app to receive notifications.

Student Feedback: I want to talk more with my classmates.

Instructor Adjustment and Explanation: A few of you said you wished you were able to talk with other students in the class synchronously. I've scheduled an optional class discussion via Zoom.

Otherwise, discussing the survey results with your students also provides you with the opportunity to:

  • Highlight what’s working well in the course. Point to positive trends and provide students with credit for their role in creating a positive learning environment.
  • Clarify your expectations and course policies. Use this as an opportunity to reinforce your expectations and direct students to resources in your course.
  • Note the ways the feedback varied. For example, if your class is split halfway on the value of small-group discussions, communicate this to them. Doing so may help them to further consider the role they play in the course and the fact that there is not one perfect solution or method.

For additional tips on how to implement, and communicate survey feedback, see University of Toronto’s “Interpreting the Results of Evaluations” and Vanderbilt University’s “Soliciting and Utilizing Mid-Semester Feedback” guides. If you’re unsure how to interpret some comments, you may also find it helpful to review the feedback with a colleague or your Instructional Designer from the Center for Teaching and Learning​.

Some student feedback will address elements that you’re unable to change as the course is in progress. Note those items for later reflection and revision.

References and Resources

Carol A Hurney, Nancy L Harris, Samantha C Bates Prins, & S E Kruck. (2014). The Impact of a Learner-Centered, Mid-Semester Course Evaluation on Students. The Journal of Faculty Development, 28(3), 55-61. 

Center for Teaching & Learning, Boston University. Getting feedback from students

Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, University of Toronto. Gathering Formative Feedback with Mid-Course Evaluations

Lewis, K. (2001). Using Midsemester Student Feedback and Responding to It. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2001(87), 33-44. 

Marx, R., (2019). Soliciting and utilizing mid-semester feedback. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. 

Svinicki, M., Nicol, D., & McKeachie, W. (2014). McKeachie’s teaching tips : strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (Fourteenth edition.). Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Wickramasinghe, S., & Timpson, W. (2006). Mid-Semester Student Feedback Enhances Student Learning. Education for Chemical Engineers, 1(1), 126–133. ​