Category Archive: High-Impact Educational Practices

May 17

Research-Based Teaching Series 2016-2017

The Research-Based Teaching Series (RBTS) had its final workshop for the 2016-2017 academic year. Co-sponsored by the Department of English and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Leadership (CTLL), RBTS seeks to support the work of faculty from all disciplines, colleges, and campuses by offering faculty presentations and workshops on best practices in teaching and learning. These workshops not only provide information and resources for faculty seeking to enhance their own pedagogical practices, but also give faculty an opportunity to present their work to peers.

Because the University of North Georgia (UNG) is a partnering institution for the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ (AAC&U) Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP), we encouraged submissions that support the principles of this initiative. These included, but were not limited to, the following:

The 2016-2017 RBTS programming included five workshops offered to all campuses.

The 2017-2018 Call for Proposals is now available. Applicants can submit their proposal here.

Past RBTS Events 2016-2017:

September 7, 2016 – Literature is an Ally:  Reading War in the Classroom and Community

Kristin Kelly, Associate Professor of English, discussed “Talking Service,” a national reading and discussion program for servicemen and servicewomen coming back to civilian life from the war zone.

October 5, 2016 – Statistics: It’s Not Just for STEM Anymore! Conduct Research in ANY Discipline Using Statistical Analysis

Gina Reed, Professor of Math, led this workshop designed to support the research of all faculty and provided important methods and tools for conducting quantitative research in the classroom. This research can, potentially, develop into publishable scholarship in the areas of teaching and learning.

January 18, 2017 – Everyone Can Teach Writing: Three Constructs to Engage Students in Deep Learning

Jim Shimkus, Assistant Professor of English and Director of Faculty Fellows, and Anita Turlington, Associate Professor of English, explained the relevance of the three constructs (and associated practices/activities) that engage students in learning beyond a simple quantity of writing (i.e. number of pages written) as high-impact teaching practices that help to enhance student learning and development. Their presentation used results from a recent research project, “The Contributions of Writing to Learning and Development: Results from a Large-Scale Multi-institutional Study” which identified the three constructs as Interactive Writing Processes, Meaning-Making Writing Tasks, and Clear Writing Expectations. These practices are helpful not only for those college teachers who are focused on teaching writing, but teachers in any discipline who are interested in strategies to enhance student learning.

Molly Daniel, Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition, presenting at the Effectively Responding to Student Writing workshop.

February 1, 2017 – Effectively Responding to Student Writing

Matthew Boedy and Molly Daniel, Assistant Professors of English, shared principles for giving effective feedback. These principles are grounded in composition theory but also includes particular strategies, practices, and “marks” by instructors. Many in the English Department teach First Year Composition on a regular basis, but faculty in other departments also teach writing-intensive courses. Much research in composition theory has been devoted to developing best practices for giving feedback to students in these types of courses.

March 27, 2017 – Is Blended Learning a Viable Option?

Jennifer Schneider, Assistant Professor of Accounting, addressed how to use an interactive approach to reach students. Educators and students are interested in positive learning experiences. Making the change to a blended learning structure might achieve the goal for both groups. “Flipping the Classroom” is a blended learning method that is being used to disrupt the passive learning pedagogy.

Feb 01

Enabling ALL Students via Analytics

Eric Westervelt, an educational correspondent for NPR, wrote a very interesting article in the Learning & Tech section entitled “The Higher Ed learning Revolution: Tracking Each Student’s Every Move.” In the article, he makes points normally found in discussions regarding the use of data to identify at-risk students in time to help them.

Then, he moves on to say something astounding in its obviousness: “A lot of times, the discussion will be about students who might be behind or at-risk, but it’s also true for students who are really excelling academically. They also need special kinds of attention.” In other words, if we’re concerned (as we should be) with the impact of one-size-fits-all education on those students who are at-risk, why don’t we use the same models to look for students who are outliers at the other end of the distribution? Those of us who have been in the classroom know the students I’m talking about – the quiet ones that sit in the back of the room, volunteer little, and represent a challenge as you can’t remember them until you hand that first A back in class four weeks into the semester. If our role as both teacher and mentor is important to the formation of our students, we are just as responsible for identifying students with special abilities that stay quiet as we are with those who are at-risk. Westervelt provides an interesting look into this topic.

On a closing note, I also want to take a moment and encourage our LEAP team’s work with High Impact Practice dissemination and the opportunities provided for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. My particular background in machine learning has included application of modeling techniques to discovering heart issues. The same techniques can be applied to the data sources mentioned by Westervelt to provide fairly deep models of student behavior. Here’s hoping that deep modeling of student behavior and predicted outcomes will share the same academic acceptance as work done in other fields. It should, as a focus on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning will help bring to fruition the ideas discussed by Westervelt.

Nov 09

No Time for Tolerance

Tolerance is not enough.

Too often, we look at diversity with a superficial mindset or view it as a panacea. We talk of “tolerance” and think that we have contributed meaningfully to a conversation, yet we do not act. Tolerance is not enough – it is too passive. The word itself implies distaste for something, yet not a strong enough emotion to take action. We must move to a culture of accepting, embracing, and empowering our students and each other. I want to take a moment to ask you to reflect on who you are and how you reached this point in your lives. Did you have assistance? Was your achievement based solely on your individual talents and aspirations? I challenge you to think critically about these questions and reflect for a moment on what a diverse environment is to you.

Critically analyze how you have benefited from your position in society, or conversely, how you have experienced minoritization within society. To experience the benefits of the privileged group, you do not have to be actively oppressing another element of society; this distinction is important to remember. That is the tricky thing about power and privilege – you benefit because they exist, not because you actively engage in detrimental behaviors towards others. As a woman of Caucasian background and middle class upbringing, I am in both the dominant group (middle class and Caucasian) as well as the minoritized groups (female). Many of us will find that we have overlapping roles (intersectionality) where we enjoy some benefits of privilege while also experiencing some of the effects of oppression. For an interesting perspective on privilege to share with students (and to examine for yourself), watch this video by BuzzFeed Yellow. (also linked here.)

Power as Privilege

Why focus on power and privilege, rather than race, ethnicity or religion, the excellent sub categories that seem to have devoured television news as of late? Because decisions are made by those who hold power, those who are privileged. These power groups are the gatekeepers of our society. They determine the opportunities that arise through industry, curriculum in P-12 schools, and even the type and quality of healthcare to which we have access. Power and privilege are the forces that drive our experiences within the larger society. The PBS Newshour clip, linked here, demonstrates just how easy it is to fall into a mindset of priviledge.  The clip is alarming in many ways, but primarliy how easily the “privileged” group changed.  Just because we do not perpetuate acts of racism or oppression, does not mean that we do not benefit from systemic and institutional mechanisms that govern the behaviors and attitudes of our society. We cannot rest, thinking that because we do not spread hate, we have no action to take or responsibility to bear. We, as a society, must engage in a dialogue that deconstructs what we think we know and reframes concepts of equality and equity.

Equality, the state of being equal – especially in rights, status and opportunities — would be the ideal state of a culture, in that all members of the society have the same opportunity. Equity, the quality of being fair and impartial, is simply an extension of the concept, whereby all members of the society have access to an equal opportunity.

Experiencing Diversity

Ultimately, we must help our students understand what it means to live and work in a diverse society. We must provide opportunities for them, through the curriculum to build on their experience base and learn to navigate a world that is wonderfully rich and brimming with colors, flavors and ideas that may be different than their own. In my own classes I require students to spend 10 hours in a setting that is dynamically different than their own cultural background. Students must keep field notes (this also reinforces research practices) related to their experience and file their field notes with me. Students must spread their hours over a minimum of three visits. This is orchestrated to provide multiple views into the same setting, as well as give the students the opportunity to interact with participants. Experiences can include religious services (the Baptist to Methodist conversion doesn’t count – it must be DYNAMICALLY different), service opportunities that benefit the homeless or less fortunate, elder care settings, ethnically diverse settings like the Chinese Cultural Center in Atlanta, etc. The options are endless and all experiences are guaranteed to engage and enlighten. You are not going to convert someone that refuses to be enlightened, but you are going to give them the ability to learn to interact with others in a respectful way and to reflect on the experience with a critical, and more informed, eye. You may even impart the lesson that we are all more similar than we are different. Ultimately, the goal of this activity is to teach students respect for self and others, not to create activists.

Gatekeepers of the Future

We as a college community have a rare opportunity to chart our own course, determine the values that we want to exhibit, and embrace all students who share their time and talents with us: to create a community of acceptance. We are the gatekeepers to our future world. I encourage you to empower your students to value this by teaching them what it means to be caring, empathetic humans who are also successful professionals – educate the whole student. Teach them to be scholars, to be critical thinkers who have the ability to use our lessons and interactions as the building blocks to a better world. Model for them what it means to be educators who are inclusive of all backgrounds and persuasions in your classes. I challenge you to explore your own biases (everyone has them, and it is normal) and work to mitigate them. We have the ability to transform our campus community and contribute to the communities that surround each of our campuses in a very significant way. Promote acceptance, as tolerance is the way of the past.

Resources and Information

13 Resources for Teaching about White Privilege

Booklet on Diversity in the Student Body. Inside Higher Ed.

Diversity Initiatives and Resources at UNG

Graduate study in Diversity Issues (EDUC 7991)

High  Impact Practices: Integrating Diversity and Global Learning in your Course Curriculum

Quick Facts about the Student Population at UNG

UNG Library Guide on Teaching Resources for Diversity and Global Learning

What Is Privilege?. Prod. BFMP. By Chris Coleman. Dir. Marquita Thomas. Perf. BuzzFeed Yellow. BuzzFeed Yellow, 14 July, 2015. Web.

Further Reading

Adams, M., L. A. Bell, and P. Griffin, eds. 2007.Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Barnett, P.E. (2013) “Unpacking teacher’s invisible knapsacks: Social identity and privilege in higher education.” Liberal Education. Association of American Colleges & Universities. 99.3 . Retreived from

Goodman, D.J. (2010) “Helping students explore their privileged identities.” Diversity and Democracy.  Association of American Colleges & Universities. 13.2 .Retrieved from

Goodman, D.J. 2001. Promoting diversity and social justice: Educating people from privileged groups. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage .

Johnson, A. 2006. Privilege, power and difference, 2nd ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

Kimmel, M., and A. Ferber. 2010. Privilege: A reader, 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Westview Press.

Kivel, P. 2002. Uprooting racism: How white people can work for racial justice. Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada: New Society Press.


Nov 02

GALILEO database: Artstor

This article is the third part of a series by UNG Libraries covering some of the newest and most exciting additions to our GALILEO Database collections. A new post will appear on the last Monday of every month of Academic year 2015-2016. Please note: login required for off-campus access to some links

Pictorial Quilt; Harriet Powers (1837-1910); United States; 1895-98; Textiles: Cotton plain weave, pieced, appliqued, embroidered, and quilted; 175 x 266.7 cm (68 7/8 x 105 in.

Pictorial Quilt; Harriet Powers (1837-1910); United States; 1895-98; Textiles: Cotton plain weave, pieced, appliqued, embroidered, and quilted; 175 x 266.7 cm (68 7/8 x 105 in.)  This image was provided by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All rights reserved. (see footnote)

“One picture is worth ten thousand words.

~ Chinese proverb

Images are powerful communication tools and the UNG Libraries subscribe to a fabulous collection, Artstor Digital Library. Artstor Digital Library shares almost 2 million images in the arts, architecture, humanities, and sciences from museums, photo archives, photographers, scholars, and artists for teaching and educational use.  Any UNG student, faculty, or staff member can immediately start searching and using images through the Libraries’ link to Artstor on campus. You can also opt to create an account to save and organize images into collections and write personal annotations. Faculty and staff may also request “instructor privileges” that allow additional folder rights and the ability to upload your personal images (Login, click My Profile, then click Instructor Privileges tab). The tools within Artstor allow you to easily export images directly into PowerPoint or use their offline presentation tool (OIV) to zoom in to see minute details of a work for presentations.


Apples; Thomas Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910); United States; 1867; Oil on canvas; 38.73 x 30.8 cm (15 1/4 x 12 1/8 in.) This image was provided by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All rights reserved. (see footnote).

Looking for ideas on how to integrate images in your teaching? This collection is more than “fine art” to be used to teach Art History. Check out Artstor’s case studies and curriculum guides! You can find them at the Teaching Resources link under the Browse section in the Digital Library homepage. (If you’re visiting Artstor on your phone or tablet, you’ll find the case studies under Global Folders.) Artstor’s curriculum guides are broken down into topics or themes, each composed of approximately ten images that illustrate or support the subject. Artstor’s case studies describe the innovative ways subscribers in a variety of disciplines are using the Artstor Digital Library in their teaching, research, and scholarship.

Looking for images for your own publications? Select images in Artstor are part of the Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) program. Initiated by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007 to help address the challenges of scholarly publishing in the digital age by providing free images for academic publications through an automated Web-based service, the Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) program makes available publication-quality images for use in scholarly publications free of charge. All IAP contributors are Artstor image contributors and you can use Artstor to search for IAP eligible images.

  1. Login to Artstor with your username and password
  2. Use the Keyword Search and add IAP to your search criteria.
  3. Click (the IAP icon) to download a high resolution file for publication. A new window will open explaining the process. If you are eligible for the program, click Proceed. In the next window, click Download.
  4. In the next window, review the IAP Terms and Conditions of Use. You may also print this window for reference with the print link at the end of the document. Check the box indicating that you have read and accept these terms before clicking Continue.
  5. Provide the information requested in the space provided. Click Download.
  6. Two windows will open. One warns this download will take some time. The other shows your computer’s directory, where you can choose a place to save this file and continue to download as usual.
CreatorMade by, Ma Yuan, Chinese, active ca. 1190-1225 Culture China Title Scholar Viewing a Waterfall; Guanpu tu Period Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) Date late 12th-early 13th century Material Album leaf; ink and color on silk Measurements 9 7/8 x 10 1/4 in. (25.1 x 26 cm)

Scholar Viewing a Waterfall; Guanpu tu; Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279); late 12th-early 13th century; Album leaf; ink and color on silk This image was provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved. (see footnote)


Want to learn more about Artstor? Artstor offers a webinar series that cover both the general usage and Artstor tools as well as subject specific sessions such as “More than Just Art: Image of Psychology” and “The Do’s and Don’ts of Image Copyright and Image Use”. Also, their support center has a wealth of learning aids in a variety of formats for just in time learning.



*All images provided are available for uses permitted under the ARTstor Terms and Conditions of Use, such as teaching and study, as well as for scholarly publications, through the Images for Academic Publishing (IAP) initiative. Please review the IAP Terms and Conditions of Use.

Sep 28

GALILEO Database: ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times™

This article is the second part of a series by UNG Libraries covering some of the newest and most exciting additions to our GALILEO Database collections. A new post will appear on the last Monday of every month of Academic year 2015-2016. Please note: login required for off-campus access to some links.

CTLL Blog - Hist NYT - Image

The ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times™ database offers researchers full coverage of the New York Times from 1851 to the recent past*. This invaluable resource provides a record of over 160 years of significant historical events. It also gives students and researchers a glimpse into changing social perspectives and values over the decades.

Teaching with this Database

The ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times™(listed in GALILEO as: Historical New York Times (via ProQuest)) database is a fantastic resource for primary sources in history. In addition to articles by staff writers, this database includes documents like satirical cartoons, letters to the editor, classifieds, and advertisements. History classes could read feature articles about significant historical events, then look at related cartoons, editorials, and letters to the editor to examine the social response to the historical event.

Sociology classes might use ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times™ to compare current and historical attitudes toward groups of people. For example, this 1904 classified ad page features job applicants openly discussing their own religion, ethnicity, physical appearance, and disabilities. This could spark a class discussion about whether these attributes are a factor in modern-day employment.

Political science classes might use this database to examine the evolution of current hot-button political topics. The immigration debate didn’t originate with the 2016 Presidential election, after all! Students can search for “immigration” or “immigrant” within an assigned decade, then compare and contrast the issues discussed in historical articles versus current articles.

In the field of journalism and media studies, students might analyze how newspaper layouts have changed over the course of time. The “Browse this issue” feature shows an entire original page at a glance, including advertisements and images, and allows navigation to other pages within the issue. This retains all the original context and allows users to experience the newspaper much as the original reader would have.

Searching and Navigating

Like many databases, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times™ can search through articles’ full text by keyword and narrow by publication date. Search refinements allow users to search for terms specifically within articles’ title, author, dateline, section, and more. Users can also search for a term anywhere outside of the article full text, which is helpful for common terms that appear frequently in irrelevant articles.

proquestsearchProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times™ can also search according to document type. Since this database offers full coverage, search results cover far more than just feature stories. Users can search for specific item types like advertisements, birth notices, classified ads, real estate transactions, obituaries, fire losses, soldier lists, and many more.

Some item types, including advertisements and comics, lack descriptive labels that would allow users to search for specific topics. Instead of keywords, you can select “advertisement” as the document type, select a date range of interest, and leave the keyword search box empty. This will bring back all advertisements from the specified date range.

Users can browse entire issues and experience them in their original layout. If you’re already reading an item in this database, click “Browse this issue” at the top or at the right of your page. If you’re starting from the Advanced Search page, click “Publications” and navigate to your desired issue based on its publication date.

For more tips on searching within this database, see this guide from ProQuest.

Expanding Beyond ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times™

Many more newspapers, both current and historical, are available through the UNG Libraries. Explore more current and historical newspapers through GALILEO, including the current New York Times.


*Coverage ends three years prior to the current year. Right now, coverage ends on December 31, 2012. Coverage of 2013 will become available in 2016.

Apr 06

Tutoring Services: Outcomes and Experiences

In my seven years of tutoring STEM courses, I have witnessed every type of student imaginable – the smart, the go-getter, the “do enough to get by,” the last-minute, the “I just want answers,” and the downright lazy. The one thing these students have in common is that they all realize, sometimes a little too late, they need extra academic help, and that’s when the Tutoring Services (TS) staff members put on their superhero thinking cap(e)s, swoop in with their pens and pencils, and save them (well, most of them) from drowning in a sea of F’s, D’s, and WF’s. Realistically speaking, given the high tutor-to-student ratio, one can only imagine that there are academic casualties in this line of work. The casualties are usually those students who lack the determination to seek tutoring help, those who wait until the hours before an exam to request a lesson in weeks worth of material, and others who just simply choose not do the work. This landscape  of motivational challenges is the honest reality that my tutoring heroes and I have come — however uncomfortably — to accept.

For many of our students, even the “downright lazy” and the “I just want answers,” if they come in early enough to get help and we can identify into which of those groups they fall, we can usually help them improve their scores. Sometimes, this improvement reaches as high as a full letter grade.   How early ,then, should a student come in for help in order to fully benefit from the sessions? In the Spring semester of 2014, the Gainesville Campus (GC) tutoring staff collected first and second test grades from a number of GC math sections and cross-referenced them with the data obtained from the login computers in the tutoring labs. The results of the research showed many differences between the two groups across all math sections: Lab students and non-Lab students. Lab students are those who showed up for tutoring help, and non-Lab students are those did not. Let’s look at the results for the first and second Math1111 (College Algebra) test grades for the two groups (figure 1).


Figure 1: Test 1 and Test 2 grades for Spring14. Sample size (N) = 244 for Test 1 and 214 for Test 2.

According to the results, the Lab students scored higher than the non-Lab students on both tests – an average of a 6.9-point difference on the first test and a 10.8-point difference on the second test. In addition, the Lab students had a 5.7-point improvement (76.2 to 81.9) between the first and second tests, while the non-Lab students scored only a 1.8-point improvement (69.3 to 71.1).  Obviously, one reasonable explanation for the grade improvements in both groups after the first test might include a realization on the students’ parts that they needed to study more for the second test.  The Lab students, however, improved their grades significantly more than the non-Lab students.

What could account for this major improvement in this group? One observation that I have made during my time working in the labs is that, once a student gets the courage to seek tutoring help and has a positive experience with it, s/he is more likely to return. My staff and I make a concerted effort at the beginning of each semester to explain to all new lab students the importance of staying on top of their math assignments and the vital importance of seeking help early. The sooner a student comes in and seeks tutoring help, the more likely s/he is going to improve his/her grade. Of course, we would like for students to come in as soon as the semester starts, but that is not a realistic expectation for our wide range of students. Based on the results of our small study, we should intervene as soon as the first tests are given and graded in order to obtain favorable grade improvement outcomes and decrease the D/W/F rate in Math1111. The findings call for an intervention program to be put in place to help our students, and future discussions regarding such a program need to take place between departments and administrators.

Along the spectrum of student types, the last-minute and the “I just want answers” are the students who contribute most to the D/W/F rates, and they are the most interesting. They often come in just hours before a scheduled test and expect undivided attention and one-on-one tutoring. They seem to want tutors to use magic USB cables that transfer information from tutor brains to theirs. Or, at the very least, they expect to quickly input the information for quicky output on a single test, rather than understanding that true, deep learning comes from the scaffolded and practical instruction in the classroom. My tutors are patient with these students, encouraging them to make more frequent and early visits to the labs for tutoring help for the next test. Some of the students seem to change their ways, but most do not show up for help until, one again, just hours before their tests. Tutoring sessions with these students are usually ineffective, and, for the student, quite frustrating.  My tutors understand that explaining the purposes and strategies of tutoring and of learning is a crucial component of the their interactions with all students; if the students can grasp how and why they’re learning the material, they may be more likely to seek assistance in their areas of struggle.

In addition to being tutors, TS staff members also serve as counselors and advisors. Over a period of weeks of obtaining tutoring help, many students often become more comfortable around specific tutors, and they begin to create preferences. Building a great rapport between students and tutors through sharing personal math experiences is fundamental in Lab-student retention. I believe that my tutoring staff is incredibly attentive to each student’s needs and learning style. The tutors do really care about how much the tutees actually get out of the tutoring sessions. As a tutor, it is an amazingly satisfying feeling when a student returns and tells you that s/he did well on a test because you had helped him/her to prepare. Moments like that are what make a tutoring job unbelievably fulfilling.

UNG Tutoring Resources and Information


Oct 13

Midpoint Course Evaluations

by Katherine Kipp, Interim CTLL Faculty Fellow – Oconee

So we have officially passed the midpoint of the semester. Hopefully, we finally ironed out all the wrinkles in our courses and have settled into a comfortable pattern that works for us and works for our students. This is the time in the semester that I like to reflect on how well things are actually working, for me, but more importantly, for my students. I think I know how they are doing and what teaching strategies are working for them, but I’ve learned over the years that I can’t base my assessment solely on my own perceptions.

In the spirit of self-reflection, I like to conduct mid-point course evaluations in each of my courses/sections. These are similar to the end of course evaluations students complete in Banner, but they can be more useful because they are immediately beneficial to the students. I’ve always found these midpoint evaluations to be helpful or, at the very least, innocuous.

My procedure is to announce to the class my intention of conducting the midpoint evaluation. I ask the students to pull out a piece of notebook paper and write down 2 questions and their responses to each: (1) what do I like about the course and want to keep? And (2) what do I dislike about the course and want to see changed. I ask them to think about their learning in the course: what have I done that has helped or not helped them learn, what are they doing that is helping or not helping them learn. I ask them to be as thorough as possible because I will be acting upon their responses. I stress that it is very important to list things they like because if I only hear from those who dislike it, their “like” might be removed from the course. I spend a few minutes explaining that I’m doing this exercise so that they can actually have some input into the course and their evaluations will matter for the rest of the semester. With the instructions clear, I ask them to write out as much as they can, and then I collect their responses anonymously. It only takes about 10 minutes of class time.

Once I have their responses it is time for data analysis and reflection. For my procedure, I make a simple table listing every characteristic of the course that was mentioned and tally up the likes and dislikes for that characteristic. Usually I find a few key items showing up on most students’ evaluations and also a list of items only mentioned by one or two students. I reflect on the opinion of the class as a whole, and on whether I agree with their assessment. Next I reflect on what changes I could make to the course to improve, based on their suggestions. One of the beauties of this evaluation method is that students often clue me in on hurdles, obstacles, and techniques that I never would have thought of on my own.

Finally, I report back to the class. I read off suggestions and announce the number of likes and dislikes. Then I talk about how I will change to accommodate their suggestions OR the fact that I won’t change and, critically, why I won’t change. The students often enjoy this class interchange, but most importantly, they see that they are partners in the learning process, that they can influence their learning environment, and that I value their input and am eager to help them succeed.

There are many ways to structure a mid-point evaluation. Some of the parameters to consider include:

–      Anonymous vs Signed: some instructors like keeping the evaluations anonymous with the thinking that students will be more forthcoming whereas others think the students are more responsible when they sign their evaluations

–      Free-form vs Structured Format: the example above was a free-form, “write about how the course is going for you” format. Another option is to use the formal structure of the end-of-course forms given in Banner or by some other format. If you have specific techniques or issues you need feedback about, it is good to add those to whichever form you use. It is always good to have at least one open-ended question regardless of your preferred format, so that your students will have a chance to give opinions that might have been missed by your form.

–      In-class or online delivery: Contrary to what we might believe about differences in delivery format, research suggests that there are no differences in students’ responses between these delivery formats (Crews & Curtis, 2011). Although the method of gathering the evaluations doesn’t matter, it is important to have the debriefing discussion about the outcomes in person, with the class.

There are many benefits to using a midpoint evaluation. Students overwhelmingly want to be heard from in course structure and content, but very few actually feel that their evaluations are acted upon or that their feedback makes a difference (Freeman & Dobbins, 2013). This evaluation convinces them that what they think IS heard and DOES make a difference. Students gain confidence in themselves and trust in you as their instructor and partner in learning. It is a great way to get feedback in a low-cost, formative way that you may not get from the end-of-the-semester summative evaluations. And research suggests it does improve teaching for the rest of the semester (Cohen, 1980; Murray, 2007).

You can get more detail about this technique from McKeachie (2013) or Whitford (2008). There are many online forms offered as well, from the University of Maryland you can get instructions and evaluation forms, and others from University of British Columbia , Indiana University, Bloomington, and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An especially helpful tutorial and sample forms are available here.

One final point – the most essential aspect of the mid-point evaluation is that you are willing to change something. It is not an effective technique to be used if you don’t plan to give-and-take with the students. It is also important that you don’t over-use the technique within a single course offering: students can suffer from survey-overload!

Good luck, and we are half-way there!

-Cohen, P.A. (1980). Effectiveness of student-rating feedback for improving college instruction: A meta-analysis of findings. Research in Higher Education, 13, 321-341.

-Crews, T.B. & Curtis, D.F. (2011). Online course evaluations: faculty perspective and strategies for improved response rates. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36, 865-878.

-Freeman, R., & Dobbins, K. (2013). Are we serious about enhancing courses? Using the principles of assessment for learning to enhance course evaluation. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38, 142-151.

-McKeachie, W.J. (2013). Teaching Tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (14th ed.). Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company.

-Murray, H.G. (2007). Low-inference teaching behaviors and college teaching effectiveness: Recent developments and controversies. In R.P. Perry & J.C. Smart (Eds.), The scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education: An evidence-based perspective (pp. 145-200). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

-Whitford, F.W. (2008). College Teaching Tips. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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