It is a good idea to ask students to complete a short pre-course survey that prompts them to reflect on their reasons for signing up for your course and so that you can know more about what they know, what they expect from the course, and how they think they learn best. As with any assessment, think about what your goals are and whether this should be anonymous, or not. For example, if you want to use this pre-course survey to assign groups, then you would want your surveys to not be anonymous. However, an anonymous survey would serve the goal of gathering personal information about your students which they may not want to share publicly.
Sample pre-course survey questions:
- What is something you are good at doing? How did you get to be good at it?
- Why are you interested in this course? (or, what are your expectations for this course?)
- Review the syllabus — what is most intriguing to you at this point?
- Is there anything that you feel may hinder your success in this class or anything you want to share with me before the class starts, for example, other commitments this term, a particular learning style preference, your own circadian rhythms, a specific goal you want to accomplish?
In the sciences, knowledge-surveys (or ungraded quizzes) may be given the first day of class to assess students' knowledge of the subject. This is critical when a course has prerequisites like calculus and you need to know if students are prepared.
The middle of the term is another opportune time to solicit feedback from students about their learning. It is important that this feedback is acknowledged and any changes made in the course based on the feedback or decisions not to incorporate student feedback are shared with the students.
- Sometimes, it may be helpful to ask questions similar to those found on the end-of-term course evaluations during the middle of the term.
- Another simple way to get feedback is to ask students 1) what should you keep doing, stop doing, and start doing to aid student learning, and 2) what do students intend to keep doing, stop doing, and start doing to aid their learning?
- For more question ideas, see this formative evaluation resource from the University of California, Berkeley, which samples midterm evaluations from various disciplines.
Did you know that formative assessments can be distributed using Canvas? View instructions on creating surveys in Canvas.