Mid-Semester Inquiry Surveys (MSIs)

Mid-Semester Inquiry Surveys (MSIs) provide instructors with formative feedback to modify a course they are teaching. We suggest that you present this activity to your students during a class session to gather anonymous feedback on how the course is going for them. Instructors commonly find that MSIs can help enhance teaching and learning methods, promote greater student engagement, and improve instructor-student rapport. They are also a wonderful way to identify and guide changes to a course before the end of the semester and possible long-term course modifications. In some cases, instructors have found that MSIs also provide them with the opportunity to explain, or clarify, to students the reasoning behind course elements that they have been implementing, those that may be open to change, and those that you may not want to change, as they support learning. 

We suggest that you present these three broad questions to your students for this activity. Here are two different takes on these questions:  

Example 1
  1. What is helping you learn in this class?  
  2. What is limiting your learning?  
  3. What suggestions do you have for me, the instructor?  
Example 2

(from Dr. Tracy McGill, ECAS chemistry)

  1. What should I start doing?   
  2. What should I stop doing?   
  3. What should I keep doing? 

If possible, you may want to leave the room and/or leave the students with a teaching assistant as they complete this exercise.  

  • If you have a small class (e.g., 5-10 students), you may suggest that students do not write anything that could potentially identify them, so that anonymity can be maintained as much as possible.  
  • Sometimes instructors choose to use only questions #1 and #2, as these questions per se will already provide them with important formative feedback. If you decide to also ask for suggestions, you can frame this question by telling students that you will look at the suggestions and see what could be implemented during the current semester versus what could be implemented in future semesters. The students’ feedback will help benefit the course and ongoing student learning.  
  • We provide here several examples of single-page, pre-printed forms that you can download for your use. In addition to the three sample questions, we have also included examples of questions around engagement, equity, and inclusion (EEI), as well as additional statement ideas in case you’d like to develop your own, do-it-yourself (DYI) MSI and gather specific feedback about different course components of your class. 
  • If you choose not to use the single-page, pre-printed forms, some instructors present these questions on a slide and then invite students to take about 5-10 minutes during class to “take a piece of paper and write down their anonymous answers.” Other instructors may decide to bring index cards to class and distribute them, so that all students automatically have access to paper to write down their ideas. However, consider that index cards may suggest brevity and that you may be interested in receiving more detailed feedback from students.  
  • Mid-semester may be the best time to implement this survey, although this may change according to several factors. Some instructors prefer to administer it a bit earlier in the semester, during the class period that is after the class period where they hand back their first exam. The reasoning being that is that they need to know how that first exam went, but also the day the exam is handed back, consider that emotions may be high.  Of course, adjust your plans accordingly if your class doesn’t have exams, or if you only have one exam that comes too far into the course. 
Remember that student feedback should always be individual and anonymous 

To tailor the MSI to your course and course characteristics (e.g., fully in person, hybrid, online), we suggest that you verbally prompt students about specific questions when asking them to complete the survey. Use (or modify) the following sample language when presenting the survey to your class. 

As your instructor, I’m interested in your learning in this class. For that reason, I am asking for your feedback on what is helping you learn and what is not helping you learn in this class. Please find a Mid-Semester Inquiry form, which is a short, anonymous, and voluntary survey that you can use to give me feedback about how class is going for you. There are a few general questions and it should take you about 5-10 minutes to fill out. Your participation in this survey will help me to improve the class for you and your classmates, as well as future students of this class. Thank you for participating! 

After you have gathered the student data, we recommend that you read all comments and look for any trends or patterns that seem to be salient in the students’ feedback. Consider these reflection questions prompts:  

  1. Which of your teaching practices seem to be helping students?  
    Why do these practices seem to facilitate their learning? 
  2. Which of your teaching practices seem to be limiting your students’ learning?  
    Why do these practices seem to be problematic for students?  
    What can you do to mitigate these effects? 

The purpose of the reflection is to help you think about how your teaching practices are helping or hindering your students’ learning, according to your students’ feedback. 

As a next step, you can arrange a teaching consultation with a CFDE consultant to discuss your MSI results and thoughts. Our consultants will discuss the trends in the data that you find and will assist you in prioritizing any changes you would like to implement. Noting the consultation and describing your student feedback can also be a useful item to include in your teaching portfolio or professional dossier.