What is a Mid-Semester Check-In?
Many instructors take the opportunity in the middle of the semester to evaluate their students’ understanding and needs. There are several approaches to a mid-semester check-in, including gathering student perspectives on course materials and notifying individual students of their progress.
Instructors can use the feedback that students provide to adjust course content and instruction to ensure students are engaged. The Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning explains how instructors and students benefit from utilizing a mid-semester check-in. By soliciting student feedback, students feel valued as learning community members. In addition, instructors receive targeted feedback that can be used to alter or concentrate instruction.
Conducting a Mid-Semester Check-In
In “The Impact of Learner-Centered, Mid-Semester Course Evaluation on Students,” Hurney et al. report that collecting student feedback provides instructors with useful information about the learning environment. Because mid-semester feedback is customizable, instructors can narrow their inquiries to gather valuable student information, which supports open dialogues in the classroom. However, instructors should consider their options (i.e.: student surveys and performance reports) and weigh the benefits of each approach before implementing a mid-semester check-in.
The Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching emphasizes how mid-semester feedback can help instructors adjust their instruction, provide clarification to students on learning expectations, and reinforce learning objectives. The two main methods for implementing a mid-semester check-in include instructors (a) creating an assessment (survey) with questions that will help the instructor evaluate what students’ perspectives on what they have learned or are currently learning in the course and (b) viewing longitudinal reports on class tests and assignments to reveal performance trends and predictions. Each check-in method provides instructors with valuable information on learners’ needs; these methods can be used in tandem to provide a more complete picture of student learning.
Check-In Method 1: Survey Assessment
The UC Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning reports that instructors can utilize digital assessment tools to create and deliver student surveys. Some instructors use open-ended questions to gather detailed feedback and examples. These questions may include:
- What is helpful to your learning?
- What aspects of this course are you struggling with?
- How can the instructor improve your learning experience?
- What is still unclear that you need more assistance with?
Other instructors may create a survey using a rating scale to answer specific questions. For example, instructors may ask students to rate a statement using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 equals “strongly agree,” and 5 equals “strongly disagree.” Some statements may include:
- My instructor provides clear instructions on what is expected for each assignment.
- I feel engaged in the class.
- I understand what is expected of me as a learner in this class.
- I have access to the necessary resources to complete my assignments.
Instructors may also ask questions about technology. For example, instructors need to understand if students are experiencing any barriers to accessing the classroom resources, assignments, or learning technology, including the student assessment platform. While surveys are easy for instructors to create and disperse to students, data from a digital assessment tool can provide instructors with a more in-depth analysis of teaching and learning.
Check-In Method 2: Longitudinal Reporting
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a longitudinal data system collects and maintains detailed student data and provides each student’s academic and performance history. Most longitudinal data systems present student data through digital assessment platforms.
Longitudinal data can help instructors understand various feedback via identifying patterns and predictions in student performance. At mid-semester, instructors can pull performance data to examine scores for assignments, tests, and quizzes. By generating a longitudinal analysis report, instructors can observe students’ performance during a specific point in the semester to make necessary adjustments to instruction and provide individualized support.
How Can a Digital Assessment Platform Support Mid-Semester Check-Ins?
With advancements in educational technology, instructors now have access to digital assessment platforms that streamline surveys and access to longitudinal data and reporting to save time and improve the accuracy of results. A digital assessment platform supports the following methods for conducting a mid-semester check-in:
Digital assessment platforms can help instructors customize their surveys to elicit desired information. For example, instructors may be interested to know about their pacing. Are they presenting material too fast? A digital assessment platform can help instructors ask focused questions and quickly assess responses.
For survey assessments, a digital assessment platform helps with:
- Conducting anonymous mid-semester evaluations
- Exporting survey data for analysis and quick reference
- Streamlining results to better observe trends in large classes
- Protecting student anonymity to support honest, detailed feedback
When using digital assessment tools throughout the semester, instructors have access reports that present course progress. For longitudinal reporting, some digital assessment platforms provide:
- Category-tagging capabilities, allowing instructors to link specific learning outcomes or course objectives to individual questions on quizzes and exams, which provides topic-specific analysis for a deeper dive into learning objective achievements
- Performance reports instructors can view on course quizzes and exams to determine learning progress for individual students as well as for the entire course.
- Reports that help identify shared opportunities for improvement at the course level, which can inform instructional adjustments and allow faculty to shift focus for learning before the end of the semester.
- Reports that instructors can share with students to provide individualized feedback needed to improve in certain areas to deepen learning (and pass the course). These reports provide students with support that they may not realize they need to enhance pass rates and knowledge retention. Categories are key to giving students a clear understanding of what they are learning.
Mid-semester check-ins are valuable to instructors as they help them evaluate their students’ understanding and needs. In earlier years, mid-semester check-ins consisted of pen-and-paper surveys. With a digital assessment platform, educators can streamline test creation, delivery, and analysis to centralize assessment results, observe performance trends, and deepen student learning.
How ExamSoft Can Support Your Mid-Semester Check-In
ExamSoft is a data-driven, digital assessment platform that helps higher education institutions create, administer, and analyze quizzes and exams, as well as course assignments. ExamSoft allows educators to generate category-based reports that reveal performance insights at the individual student level as well as for the entire course, program, or institution. With these detailed performance reports, instructors can save time in mid-semester evaluation process. In addition, instructors can use ExamSoft’s reporting tools to determine if the course is meeting learning objectives and promote knowledge retention among individual students.
Contact us to learn how ExamSoft can help you conduct more effective mid-semester check-ins to support students and improve instruction.
Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning: Spotlight on Teaching and Learning: Mid-Semester Check-In
The Journal of Faculty Development: The Impact of Learner-Centered, Mid-Semester Course Evaluation on Students
Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching: Soliciting and Utilizing Mid-Semester Feedback
National Center for Education Statistics: Traveling Through Time: The Forum Guide to Longitudinal Data Systems