Include Small Group Instructional Feedback In Your Fall Course Plans

While end-of-semester student evaluations can help instructors determine what changes they might need to make for future iterations of a course, they do not do much to ensure the current students have a positive experience. Rather than waiting until the end of the semester to find out if your students are struggling with a certain aspect of your course, let Learning Innovation conduct a mid-semester small group instructional feedback (SGIF) session to help you course-correct at a time when both you and your students may benefit. 

The Process

Small Group Instructional Feedback (SGIF) is a formative, mid-course check-in used for gathering information from students on their learning experience. This process, which is offered at many institutions nationally, is designed to foster dialogue between students and instructors, and to offer students a transparent but anonymous way to surface their concerns about the course in a thoughtful way. 

After you fill out a brief SGIF request form, a teaching consultant from Learning Innovation will meet with you to provide an overview of the program, address any questions or concerns, and schedule the SGIF session, which will last about 30 minutes. Then, you will step out of your class and the teaching consultant will facilitate the session during the pre-determined class meeting time (either in person or online, depending on the course format). Students will be asked to join small groups, reflect, and reach consensus on their answers to the following questions:

  1. What is going well for you in the course so far? 
  2. What do you think could be improved in the course? 
  3. A custom question for that particular course, based on DLI’s discussion with the instructor. 

Finally, the teaching consultant will meet with you to review a report summarizing anonymized outcomes of the SGIF session and to help determine how to best respond to students. 

The Results

Learning Innovation has conducted dozens of SGIF sessions over the past 5 years; below are three instructors’ recent experiences with the program.

Lee Baker, Professor of Cultural Anthropology

Lee Baker

“The Small Group Instructional feedback program was both beneficial and impactful. I was teaching a new class, so it helped me confirm what was working well and enabled me to make some critical adjustments so my student could better achieve our learning outcomes.

The process is structured to get rich and deep qualitative feedback, which is better than any mid-semester survey or another form for students to fill out. Students also liked that they were ‘consulted’ on how the class was going and now seem more invested in the class.”

Connie Bishop, Consulting Associate in the School of Nursing

Connie Bishop

“I decided to participate in SGIF because it’s immediate feedback by a third party directly with students… and would help me make adjustments immediately if needed, but also would give me formative feedback.”

One change Bishop made based on the SGIF findings was essentially adding more lectures: “For the topics that were difficult or really highly technical, I would do mini-podcasts, but I didn’t do them for every module.” She had been trying to keep lecture to a minimum, but when the students expressed that they wanted the podcasts for every module, she added them.

In her undergraduate classes, Bishop uses FlipGrid, an asynchronous video discussion board in lieu of written discussion boards, and had recently started using it for her graduate courses as well. The SGIF session “confirmed they loved it.”

An added benefit for Bishop’s students is that the SGIF process served as a model for the kind of ongoing professional development and improvement that her students will be expected to make as nurses. Several students noted this in their end-of-semester feedback, saying that the SGIF session helped them better understand the importance of formative improvement.

Kristin Stephens-Martinez, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Computer Science

Kristin Stephens-Martinez

Stephens-Martinez recently taught a new, experimental course and invited Learning Innovation to conduct a SGIF session to see how things were going midway through the semester.

“The biggest value was to have an outside person being the go-between where the students would feel that they could be more candid because they know their anonymity is ensured, and it’s someone else summarizing the raw, qualitative information for me.”

She appreciated that the teaching consultant conducting her SGIF session was able to filter the results and identify trends in the feedback. While the overall finding was a reassurance that, yes, students were enjoying her class, one important piece of information emerged: students did not understand the grading scheme. Stephens-Martinez reviewed her policy and agreed with her students; “You’re right, I have not given you all the information you need to know how I’m grading you.” She then reassessed how she would be consistent across all the assignments and communicated that change to the class.

Sign Up Now For Fall 2022

Because the SGIF session requires time during a class meeting, we recommend planning ahead and completing the request form early so that you have ample time to determine when your SGIF will occur during the semester. 

Soliciting mid-semester student feedback is not only a method you can use to improve (or confirm the success of) your teaching, but it is also a meaningful way to involve students in their learning and show that you care about their experience in your course.