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Revised July 2015

Because learning does not consist only of knowing what we must or we can do, but also of knowing what we could do and perhaps should not do.
- Umberto Eco


Traditional end-of-course assessments serve to inform instructors after the teaching and learning activities are complete. The best we can do with such data is to make adjustments for upcoming courses. This process does little to inform instruction as it is happening.

Mechanisms to allow you to make adjustments to your instruction in a timely manner are one way to gather feedback to improve your teaching effectiveness and to ensure that students are being served in the course. Accessing this feedback early in the course allows you to make adjustments to benefit current students while they are in the course. Early course assessment is one mechanism that may be useful. Most university courses require an end-of-course evaluation. Early course assessment uses the same instrument as end-of-course or creates another instrument to gather feedback early in the semester.

If you consider this type of assessment strategy, some authors suggest you teach long enough to provide the students with a good representation of how you teach, how you assess, and what you expect from the students. This will result in more substantive comments and allow you to make adjustments in your instruction to better meet the needs of the class. Some suggest that three to four weeks into a regular semester is enough time for students to make informed suggestions and recommendations.


  1. Remind students that this is only to improve teaching and make adjustments to improve learning.
  2. Express the need for candid and constructive comments.
  3. Encourage students to write comments.
  4. Let students know you will discuss the main points of the feedback with the class.
  5. Organize responses into categories such as strengths, weaknesses, plans for modification, etc.
  6. Create an action plan to address the most critical items.
  7. Discussing the feedback with the class is an important way to establish trust and credibility.
  8. Thank students for responding.
  9. Limit the discussion to 3-4 main points that you can control.  


Adapted from the following sources (links will open in a new window):

Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Harvard University

Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, Carnegie Mellon University 

page last updated 10/1/2015 1:10 PM