I wanted to share that I've made the habit of distributing midterm evaluations before giving students the College's official course evaluations.
Why wait until after the class is over to find out what students thought?
I do this for two reasons:
1. It's my way of getting students to think ahead of time about how they will evaluate the course in relation to their learning, their work, and, of course, my teaching. While many of them have certainly filled out course evaluations before, I wonder how many of them thought about the language. I've tried to connect the language and structure of the evaluations to my own courses.
2. I also want students to know that I am sensitive to their concerns/opinions about the course. After I've looked at their responses, I share with them what others have said and discuss their comments. (Of course everything is anonymous.) Sometimes I can tweak my presentations, our class discussions, their assignments, etc., based on their feedback.
3. This is a great opportunity to let folks know that different people have different opinions about the content, the readings, the writing, and the discussions--or the amount of work we're doing. There is always (it seems!) those one or two outliers who complain about the work (but don't do it!), fret about how hard the quizzes/exams are (but don't study). Once they hear that others are satisfied or appreciative of my feedback and are excited about what they are learning, things turn around and we can try to salvage what we can of the semester.
I breathe a sigh of relief once the evaluations are over and sometimes I dread reading the results of my own surveys, but more often than not, I discover that things are going much better than I thought. If you want to see a draft of my survey,here you go!