Opinion: Midterm course evaluations should be universal at the University of Iowa

It makes more sense for professors to not only receive feedback from students at the end of a semester, but during it.


Lily Smith

The Old Capitol is seen on Nov. 25, 2018.

Becca Bright, Columnist

By the time Thanksgiving break arrives, most students have a word or two to say about their professors. Whether that be good or bad, the University of Iowa does provide an outlet for student feedback — at the end of a semester.  It would be more productive for the UI community if students could provide feedback at the semester midterms, too.

The design of Assessing the Classroom Environment is a good one. ACE gives the option for students to go onto their MyUI account and provide feedback on their classes. A rating summary and a space for specific comments are provided. The process is anonymous. Instructors receive these evaluations and use them to better their course in the following semester.

This system is simple, and it serves the whole academic body. Professors and teaching assistants alike encourage students to fill out these evaluations, because it provides communication. Students can voice their learning experiences; instructors improve as teachers.

So, then, why are ACE course evaluations only available during the last two weeks of the semester, when it’s too late to change the way the course’s current students are taught?

As a student, I know UI courses would benefit more if ACE evaluations were also offered at midterms. Generally, students know how they feel about a class within the first two weeks — certainly by the last two. It would be much more beneficial to the class if improvements occurred while it’s being taught.

Other students feel this way, too, including fourth-year UI student Amelia Johnson. 

“If ACE evaluations were done midsemester, it could actually lead to constructive change to courses that benefits all,” Johnson said.

This way, a class could become better as it’s being taught and not after. Offering midterm evaluations half-way through a semester would be like a progress report.

Students can voice their learning experiences; instructors improve as teachers. 

“It would give a poorly-run course a chance to become better, instead of being a source of resentment for students over the semester,” Johnson said.

ACE evaluations also appeal to a student’s privacy and schedule. Not all students are able to go to their instructor’s office hours. Writing an email does not necessarily guarantee solutions for the class as a whole. ACE presents feedback as a cohesive summary of multiple students’ responses. It helps to frame a critique of a class to be less of personal conflict between instructor and student, preventing possible resentment. 

Justin Cosner, a visiting UI English professor, offers such midterm evaluations to his students.

“The University does encourage it to instructors, but they’re not official,” Cosner said.

Official midterm evaluations offered twice per semester would allow instructors and students to create a more ideal learning environment. These would also build upon evaluations at finals. The ideal result would be instructors better understanding the impact of change within a course, as well as apply it the following semester.

This idea of adding midterm course evaluations is already in the making. Students want them, and a handful of instructors are making their own. UI could easily implement this within an official system and spare the groans had over Thanksgiving break.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.