Purpose of Midcourse Evaluation

The midcourse evaluation process can be beneficial for both the instructor and the students. Students who have the opportunity to participate in midcourse evaluations, rather than just end-of-course evaluations, tend to have a more positive outlook on the course. Instructors are more likely to receive a higher end-of-course rating than if they did not use this teaching improvement tool (McGowen & Osgathorpe, 2011). Additional positive outcomes documented in the literature include an increase in instructor confidence and motivation, better communication with the students in the classroom, and a broader knowledge of teaching resources (Diamond, 2004).

Midcourse evaluations can be a successful and meaningful process if they follow a structured procedure (Hampton & Reiser, 2004). First, it is important that students understand why these evaluations are important for the teacher (Schwier, 1982). Explaining to the students that they have a voice in their education and how it helps the instructor improve can inspire the students to take them seriously (Kite, Subedi, & Bryant-Lees, 2015; Veeck, O'Reilly, & MacMillan, 2015). Part of this explanation should outline the characteristics of a good teacher (Harris & Stevens, 2013) or the statement of Good Teaching Practices from the Miami University Policy and Information Manual. Second, once the midcourse feedback is processed, the instructor can alter the course when possible (Friedlander, 1978). Thirdly, it is important to eliminate bias in the evaluations by providing prompts that ask for specific suggestions for improvement focused on student learning while minimizing responses not productive for course improvement (i.e., "she's nice"; Berk, 2006; Bartlett, 2005). Finally, the midcourse evaluations should include some form of student reflection about their effort in learning and in co-creating the knowledge in the classroom (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2013).

Midcourse evaluations can be structured for every class and instructor schedule due to the large variety of resources available for implementation. For example, midcourse evaluations can take the form of a simple survey (either online or on paper), delivered in and/or out of class. Bullock (2003) advocates for online midcourse evaluations because they are easily analyzed, saving the instructor time. Beyond a structured form, midcourse evaluations can be a Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) or colleague review (Sipple & Lightner, 2013; Veeck, O'Reilly, & MacMillan, 2015). An instructor could also have the class name an ombudsman to collect anonymous class feedback and report this to the teacher (McCann, Johannessen, & Spangler, 2010). Furthermore, if the instructor prefers putting a larger amount of this process in the hands of the students, they could implement an Instructional Development and Effectiveness Assessment. In this process, students rate themselves and their own learning development against the learning outcomes for the class (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2013).

Midcourse evaluations can be intimidating for instructors because of the potential of "bad" evaluations and how they may influence their career (Pulich, 1984). Removing the intimidating features of these evaluations is critical for large numbers of instructors to adopt them. Instructors need feedback to improve instruction, and instructors and all levels/ranks can benefit from midcourse evaluations.

There are five main advantages of midcourse feedback: (1) in contrast to end-of-course evaluations, the feedback can be used to make changes during the current course; (2) the students report feeling empowered to help craft their educational experience; (3) questions can be tailored to highlight the specific characteristics of the course, rather than global measures of teaching effectiveness from the end-of-course evaluation; (4) the instructor can solicit formative feedback that does not have to be shared with the university administration; and (5) the midterm feedback can go directly to the instructor about characteristics of the course most pertinent to the instructor (Keutzer, 1993).

Cohen's meta-analysis of studies about the impact of midcourse evaluations on end-of-term evaluations concludes, "Instructors receiving mid-semester feedback averaged 0.16 of a rating point higher on end-of-semester overall ratings than did instructors receiving no mid-semester feedback" (Cohen, 1980, p. 337). In a more recent study, the impact of midcourse feedback on end-of-term feedback depends on what instructors do with the midcourse feedback. For example, "Student ratings showed improvement in proportion to the extent to which the instructor engaged with the midcourse evaluation. Faculty who read the student feedback and did not discuss it with their students saw a 2 percent improvement in their online student rating scores. Faculty who read the feedback, discussed it with students, and did not make changes saw a 5 percent improvement. Finally, instructors who conducted the midcourse evaluation, read the feedback, discussed it with their students, and made changes saw a 9 percent improvement" (McGowan & Osguthorpe, 2011, p. 169).