4.1. Early Feedback

Many instructors find it useful to get feedback from students early in the semester. This helps in suggesting how to improve the course before it is too late to do so.

The following form is an example of an early feedback form for discussion sections. It asks about the overall effective of the discussion section, as well as the TA's teaching effectiveness. If you wish to use it, feel free to modify it as needed.


Handing out the survey

When handing out the survey tell the class the purpose of the survey (usually to improve teaching), and who will see it (usually just you). Encourage the students to submit thoughtful, candid responses. Also tell students how and when you plan on sharing the results of the survey.

Evaluating the feedback

If 20% or more of the students responded negatively on any item, you will probably want to examine it further. You may want to ask a peer, the instructor, or the Center for Educational Innovation (formerly the Center for Teaching and Learning) if you need advice on addressing any issues.

It is common for there to be contradictory feedback. This sometimes indicates that your teaching strategies are effective for some student learning styles, but not for others. If there is an item with very contradictory feedback, you may want to ask students for further, more specific, input. One approach would be to have students respond in writing to questions like "The instructor's explanation are clearest when..."

Review student comments to the open-ended questions carefully. First, look over the positive remarks. Then sort the suggestions for change into those you intend to change, those you cannot change or do not think it would be a good idea to change, and those that are negotiable.

Expect to get a mixture of results. Very few people get feedback that is all positive or all negative. Also, do not expect to be able to address everything. Usually focusing on improving a few key items is more effective than trying to address everything at once.

When summarizing the results to the class

Use a positive accepting tone. The manner in which you introduce the evaluation and discuss the results is crucial. Avoid being defensive, angry, preachy, or overly apologetic.

Select a few items that yielded positive responses and a few that you hope to improve. There's no need to go over every item.

If you decide to make changes, state what you intend to do differently and why.

Clarify, if possible, any confusion about major issues like the role of the discussion sections in the course.

Ask for further feedback if needed (e.g., "Several of you felt that the last assignment was confusing, but I need help in understanding why...")

When appropriate, enlist students' assistance in making a change. (e.g., "I'm going to try to speak more loudly, and I'd appreciate it if you signal me when I'm speaking too softly.")

Let students know what THEY can do to remedy the issues you've mentioned (e.g., asking more questions if uncertainty about assignments is an issue).

Thank the students for their input.

Further use of the results

Some people find it useful to look at the surveys again later on in the semester.


The purpose of this survey is to give your TA information about his/her teaching effectiveness. This information will be used by the TA to try to improve the class; it will not be used in personnel decisions. Please be as accurate and as candid as possible.

DD=Strongly Disagree D=Disagree U=Uncertain A=Agree AA=Strongly Agree

1) The TA is knowledgeable about the material. DD D U A AA
2) The TA speaks audibly and clearly. DD D U A AA
3) The TA has good rapport with students. DD D U A AA
4) The TA invites questions and discussion. DD D U A AA
5) The TA provides clear answers to questions. DD D U A AA
6) The TA summarizes or emphasizes key points. DD D U A AA
7) The TA makes good use of examples or illustrations. DD D U A AA
8) The TA encourages students to think about the material. DD D U A AA
9) The TA provides helpful feedback on assignments and classwork. DD D U A AA
10)The lecture portion of the class and the discussion section fit together well. DD D U A AA
11)Overall, I find the discussion section useful. DD D U A AA

What things about this discussion section help you learn best?

How could this discussion section be improved? Please be specific.