Student Experience Uncategorised

Mid-Semester Surveys Case Studies

An example of good practice that Teaching Academy is championing is the use of Mid-Semester Surveys across taught course units. This simple check-in with students can reveal aspects of their learning students are enjoying and, most importantly, highlight any issues that could be a very simple fix, asking these questions in the middle of the survey gives you an opportunity to act on that feedback and improve the student experience.

Students in a lecture theatre

Several faculty Teaching and Learning Enhancement Leads shared their experiences with implementing mid-semester surveys. Special thanks to Aurelie Le Normand (FBT), Martin Simmons (Civil Engineering), Andrea Schalk (Computer Science), Nick Weise (Chemistry), Louise Walker (Maths) and Andy Weightman (Associate Dean for Teaching Academy) who have shared their experiences below.

Can you explain what you did and why you did it? Including if this was face to face and how much class time it took 

Aurelie: I did it because we have made some changes to the unit’s assignment and as new unit co-ordinator for this unit, it was important for me to receive midsemester feedback. I only got little feedbacks about the unit at the last Staff Student Liaison Committee and the feedback gathered only represented a low proportion of the students taking this unit. This was done face 2 face, as I thought this will help in general

Nick: I have found the following 3 questions to work well locally:

  • What enhances / enhanced your learning?
  • What hinders / hindered your learning?
  • What do you need to move forward with your learning?

This combination seems to elicit self-reflection (e.g. sometimes I don’t watch the video before the session) as well as constructive criticism. The last question is also usually rich with ideas you can implement right away to help the students now, rather than waiting until the subsequent year.

Louise: Maths have run week 3 feedback for many years.  This used to be on paper but now is mainly done through Blackboard surveys or in class using Mentimeter etc. 

Andy: I wanted to get feedback from my students on the positives about my unit and what was going less well. That way I could try and sustain/enhance things that were helping the students learn and that they enjoyed and focus on developing the areas they did not value or they did not enjoy. For me this was a really valuable activity as I figure if students know that I care about them and there learning then the learning environment will be better and that should enhance the student experience. I ran a two question mentimeter survey in week 4, I choose that week as I wanted to give the students long enough to familiarise themselves with the course, but not too far in that it would be difficult to plan and change anything if I needed to. I think it took around 10 minutes to capture the feedback, and the mentimeter link stayed active for a little while so students could complete a little after the lecture.

Andrea: we’ve previously run `health checks’ in Computer Science in Weeks 3/4 with a view to being able to `fix’ anything that is brought up by students as being a major problem in the course of the current semester. We last did this in 2021-22. On that occasion we had so few responses (which didn’t raise anything of interest) that we decided not to run them last year. In retrospect, maybe concentrating on different aspects of each unit (various categories of asynchronous materials, synchronous sessions) was not the right way to go.

What questions did you ask the students? and Why?

Andy: I kept it really simple to one thing the students enjoyed about the course and one thing they would like to see improve. I did this through Mentimeter as I was already using it for active learning in my lectures. Unsurprisingly there were patterns in the feedback I received.

Aurelie: I asked students to provide 2 areas of good practice and 2 areas of improvement and these could be about the delivery, the pace, the content and/or about the assessment requirements.  This was set up as open-ended answer.  

What did the results tell you and how will you address the feedback?

Martin: Last year, I did a couple quick of surveys for one of my course units using a Microsoft Form at the end of the lecture. The surveys were done in weeks 4 and 10. Both surveys asked the students to rate the unit out of 5 but then asked slightly different questions. In week 4 I asked students to comment on strengths (yes, there were some!) and areas for improvement. Some of the responses were quite useful and prompted me to make a few changes. I also put all the student comments in a word document and wrote a brief response to them, which I put on Blackboard. In week 10, the questions focused more on students understanding of the topics and what they wanted me to focus on during the revision sessions.

Louise: We ask students to comment on the lectures, the support classes and the online materials.  Some lecturers add in their own questions.  We then ask all staff to let students know how they will respond to the feedback (even if it’s just to say thanks for all the positive comments!)

Andy: The feedback confirmed that the students liked the interactive nature of the lecture, doing worked exam questions together and the online self-assessment quiz each week or two; so an easy decision to keep doing those. The feedback on what they would like to improve is always a little more tricky, for example when they talk about too much work outside of lectures you have to be diplomatic that the activities are appropriate given the unit budget for work per number of credits; actually I needed to sense check I hadn’t calculated incorrectly! A lot of the feedback is not a surprise, some weeks I forgot to release my slides a week in advance and I just had to hold my hands up and say sorry, you are right, I will do better from now on. I think the honesty and that the students can see you care makes a real difference.

Andrea: In general, we’ve found recently in CS that the mechanisms we have traditionally used for students to voice their opinions (Suggestion boxes, Student-Staff Liaison Committee, etc) have not really allowed us to find out what they are thinking and incorporate their feedback. Lately UEQs have not been very useful – completion rates have been poor and we are still waiting to get the feedback comments for Semester 2 (and we didn’t get them at all for Semester 1). I think we need to think more generally about how we get students to tell us about their impressions and ideas.

For guidance on how you can set up and run. a mid-semester survey including guidance on how to respond to Student feedback read this article.