10 Ways to Check-In with Students during the Term

When teaching, course evaluations can provide a snapshot of students’ experiences which can be used to improve the course in future terms. That feedback is after the course has ended though. During the term, checking in with students about their experience of the course can provide helpful information that can allow for flexibility and adaptation to meet the needs of specific students or make adjustments that benefit the entire class. While formative assessment is always helpful to see how students are progressing in their learning, checking in on their experience of the course can offer a different kind of awareness and insight into opportunities for student support. In addition, being responsive after checking in can demonstrate your care for students and your willingness to work together to co-create a positive class experience. Including anonymous check-in options can also help students feel safer sharing about experiences or offering authentic feedback.

Here are a few ideas for how you can check in with students and gain valuable information to support your planning and pedagogy:

  1. Q&A Time: Save 5 minutes at the start of one class session each week for open question time. Encourage students to bring questions during that time or give them space to talk with a partner about a question before asking.
  2. Stop, Start, Continue: Hand out 3×5 cards and ask students to respond to Start, Stop, Continue prompts.
    • What’s something they’d like to start happening in the course?
    • What’s something they’d like to stop happening in the course?
    • What practice do they appreciate and want to continue?
  3. Anonymous Qualtrics Survey: Include a link to an anonymous Qualtrics survey in your syllabus and remind students about the link throughout the term. Invite them to share about how they’re experiencing the course throughout the term.
  4. Process Memos: When students submit assignments during the term, plan for a few of those assignments to include process memos where students reflect on their process and next steps in learning. Don’t grade process memos, or, grade only as complete/incomplete to encourage authentic reflection.
  5. Midterm Survey: Share an anonymous survey (hand out in class or distribute link online) half-way through the term with questions about specific elements of the course (e.g., class sessions, office hours, assignments, etc.). After surveying students, provide an overview of what you’ve learned and any adjustments you’re making to the course in response.
  6. Clearest and Muddiest Point: Start some class sessions by asking students to talk together and share out about what their clearest and muddiest points are. You can also do this anonymously using tools like Poll Everywhere or Mentimeter.
  7. Conferences: If you teach a course where individual or small group conferences are feasible, having 1:1 conversation can help you learn about students’ experiences and provide space for follow-up questions. Sharing a few prompts for students to think on prior to the conversation can be a great way to help students prepare to share experiences.
  8. Sticky Note Takeaways or Exit Tickets: Occasionally hand out a sticky note at the start of class, and have students write a takeaway or insight from the class session; make a connection between past and current content; or share how the day’s lecture, discussion, or activities landed for them. This can be particularly useful for understanding what students are learning and how they’ve experienced a new activity you’ve tried in class.
  9. Ungraded Reflection: Low-stakes, brief assignments with a guiding prompt can be a quick way for students to reflect in class and give you a sense of what students are thinking about or learning at a key point in the term.
  10. Submit an Exam Question: Ask students to submit questions and offer that 2-3 of the questions from class will end up on the exam itself. This provides insight into what students view as key concepts or challenging aspects of course. You can then be mindful of what does and doesn’t show up in submitted questions as you support students in preparing for the upcoming exams.
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