S-0214: Review the use of the Mid-Semester Course Assessment as a formative assessment tool; identify barriers to the use of the Mid-Semester Assessment at Rutgers; consider whether such an assessment should be required/recommended for all courses.
Research shows that the most useful course assessment is often a mid-semester instructor-generated assessment which allows for adjustments prior to the completion of the course.1 Unlike the required end-of-semester course evaluations, a mid-semester course assessment is a formative assessment designed solely to provide information and feedback to an instructor and to allow for development and improvement of a course in progress.
The Senate has previously recommended that teaching assistants be required to make use of the Mid-Course assessment in their courses.2 The New Brunswick Graduate School Teaching Assistant Project (TAP) currently provides drafts of both general and science-specific mid-semester evaluations for the use of teaching assistants.3
The New Brunswick Teaching Excellence Center has developed an online Midcourse Survey4 that allows faculty to conduct an informal, anonymous survey of their students prior to the end of the course. The system is now fully automated and is available to the entire university community.
Once an instructor has set up a survey, an online address is automatically generated for that survey. Most faculty then use a listserv to communicate that address to the students in the course. An instructor can then choose to have survey results delivered as anonymous emails, as a private html document, or as a text file. The TEC does not keep or analyze the results of these surveys.
Feedback from instructors using the form has generally been very positive. There is a core group that uses it every semester; in the Fall of 2003 the New Brunswick Writing Program used the system for all of their sections and were very pleased with it.
Barriers to Use
Many faculty are unaware of the existence, or purpose, of the Mid-Course Survey. However, probably the biggest obstacle to a more general adoption of the Survey is the concern on the part of faculty that these surveys could be (mis-)used by departments or the University Administration for promotion or other personnel decisions. More needs to be done to publicize both the availability of this service and the confidentiality of the results.
Use at Rutgers
While the Instruction, Curricula and Advising Committee believes the general use of a Mid-Semester Course Assessment would be beneficial to most instructors and to the maintenance of high-quality teaching at Rutgers, we see little point to recommending that it be made mandatory for all courses. There would be no way to effectively monitor what is essentially a confidential process; nor would making it mandatory guarantee that survey results would be taken seriously and used for course improvement.
2 Review of Teaching Assistant Training (February 2001). http://senate.rutgers.edu/tatrain.html#IV.