Student Experience

Tips on creating a Mid-Semester Survey

Image of a Blackboard in a classroom during a teaching session

A standard practice across the University is to ask students for their feedback on a course unit at the end of the semester. This can be a frustrating arrangement for both Staff and Students as by the time feedback is available there is no opportunity to make any adjustments that may benefit the cohort providing the feedback.

Several Disciplines across Science and Engineering run a short mid-semester feedback survey to try and address these issues. This article will outline some suggestions of good practice on how you might approach this for anyone interested in adopting a mid-semester survey.

Survey Outline

Everyone suffers from survey fatigue, so to ensure this is as effective as possible your survey should be as short as possible, a suggestion is that you ask students for two aspects of the course that they feel are working well and two items that students feel are barriers to their learning.
Consider asking open questions such as:

  • What enhances / enhanced your learning?
  • What would further help your learning?

With students asked to provide a maximum of two examples per question.

Survey Delivery

Survey response rates are notoriously low, one way to that may lead to higher response rates is to ask students to complete the survey at the start of a lecture or face to face teaching session. This should only take about 10minutes out of the session. Academic staff teaching across the same unit should agree who will deliver the survey and ensure that a survey is only delivered once per course unit.

Not everyone is able to think of good ideas and issues at the drop of a hat so consider giving your students advanced notice that you will be asking for their feedback – this may lead to more considered responses.

As a way to save time, a Mentimeter template has been created for staff to copy into their own Mentimeter workspace. Instructions on how to get the template can be found here, and instructions on how to obtain a Mentimeter licence and workspace can be found here.

Disciplines are obviously free to use alternative formats and technology to achieve this goal.

Survey Feedback

Once the survey has run it’s vital that feedback to the cohort is provided in a timely fashion.

The following guidance is aimed to help staff structure their mid-semester survey feedback:

Reflect – Do take a little time to reflect on the feedback before responding, especially if the feedback annoys you, responding when we are emotional is likely to be counterproductive. 

Be clear and concise – Don’t feel that you have to write lots of feedback, just be clear and concise, it will be easier for you and the students will appreciate at. E.g. Thanks for your feedback, we can do more of the worked examples in our lectures.

Positive tone – Do be positive and show that you want the feedback so you can improve student learning and their experience, we know they appreciate this. e.g. Thank you, I appreciate your feedback, I’m sorry I was late uploading the lecture slides, I will do better for the rest of the course.

Clarity on expectations – Sometimes you won’t be able to satisfy student feedback, just be clear that there are some constraints.  E.g. Unfortunately I won’t be providing the answers to the exam before you sit it, however you will have two past papers and solutions to help you prepare. E.g. I know the content of the unit may seem like a lot but you will see from the unit specification it is appropriate, please come and discuss with me so I can explain a little more.

Grouping comments – If you received several comments on one topic you could group these to save time. E.g. Several people mentioned they did not understand the solution to Question 1 in the quiz, we can go through that in our next lecture to clarify.

Inappropriate comments – We would not advise sharing inappropriate comments that students make, unfortunately online abuse is a challenge across our society. We would suggest you share your student handbook statements on behaviour and ask students to reflect on the environment they want to create for their learning. Please do speak to your programme director or DHoE is you have issues so we can support you effectively. 

Ask a colleague – You may want to ask a colleague for their thoughts on how to respond, this will sense check your response and a team approach will enable us to learn from each other’s experiences. 

Timeliness – You should respond to the feedback within a reasonable timeframe and no longer than 10 working days, not doing so will be counterproductive. You may also want to think about your colleagues, if you work all night to respond the next day that might not help the students perception of them.