CETL—The mid-semester evaluation

The mid-semester evaluation (also known as the 'stop-start-continue')

An easy way for instructors to gather feedback about a course at mid-semester is a 'stop-start-continue' evaluation. This brief qualitative questionnaire asks students three straightforward questions:

  • What should your instructor stop doing (with respect to his or her teaching)?

In response to this question, students are asked to provide constructive comments about any aspect/s of the instructor's teaching that they feel are hindering learning. This might include observations about the instructor's voice projection (or lack thereof), monotone delivery of the lecture, or slide font sizes that are too small to be read from the back of the room. When several students make similar observations, it is safe to assume that there is a trend at play. Once this trend has been identified, it can be rectified where feasible. For instance, an instructor might start using a lapel microphone in response to student concerns about not being able to hear.

  • What should your instructor start doing?

In answering this question, students have a space to suggest the kinds of teaching/teaching activities that best facilitate learning for them. For instance, they might offer something like: 'She should start using more examples to illustrate the theory' or 'It would help me if the instructor made more connections between the lecture and the work that we do in our labs'.

  • What should your instructor continue doing?

Put another way, this question essentially asks: 'What is your instructor doing in class that resonates with you and your learning style?' The point of this question is to foreground the aspects of the instructor's current practice that students both enjoy and gain the most learning from.  The student answers to this question (which will not always be the same, since different students appreciate different things) provide the instructor with some insight into what s/he is doing well and should therefore continue.

A stop-start-continue survey is a 'dipstick' evaluation for instructors; it gives them a quick overview of the students' experience of the course and its teaching. Since the evaluation is administered partway through the term, instructors can choose to adapt some of their practices while the course is still in progress (in contrast to the Student Course Opinion Questionnaires).

The evaluations should be totally anonymous. While this anonymity may allow some students to get away with inappropriate or foolish comments, it also prevents concerns about potential victimization ('If I don't say something nice about the instructor, I won't get a good grade'). Anonymity—as well as the need for constructive feedback—should be made explicit by the instructor when the questionnaires are administered.

The CETL staff is happy to review completed mid-semester evaluations to identify two or three key trends that the instructor should consider, along with suggestions about possible responses to student concerns.

This is a paper-based evaluation—it has been found that paper forms tend to get a better response rate. 

A version of the questionnaire on the CETL letterhead is available here.

For more information on this method:

Angelo, T.A. & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco

Strobino, J. (1997). "Building a Better Mousetrap" in The Teaching Professor, p. 6.

Wachtel, H. (1998). "Student evaluations of college teaching effectiveness: a brief review" in Assessment and Evaluations in Higher Education, 23, pp. 192 - 211.