The Mid-Course Interview (MCI)
Overview of the Program

The Mid-Course Interview (MCI) is one way that you can receive feedback from your students at midterm about how your class is going. In this faculty-guided process, two colleagues from outside your department visit your class and lead your students in a series of structured individual and group reflections on the elements of your course that are going well, and those that could use some improvement. In this process, they strive to identify perspectives that are held by the majority of students, thus eliminating idiosyncratic or minor complaints and focusing on elements of your course that are worthy of your attention.
Your colleagues meet with you before they conduct the class interview to find out more about your class and your concerns, and they report to you afterward on the general themes and student perspectives they heard in the interview. The process is completely confidential, i.e. you are the only person the interviewers will talk to about the results of the interview.
During the interview, students address the following questions:

  • What is working in the class to facilitate learning?
  • What is impeding learning?
  • What could students do to improve this class?
  • What could the instructor do to improve this class?

Students consider these questions individually, in small groups, and then as a whole-class.  During the larger discussion, one of the faculty members serves as a scribe while the other serves as the interviewer.  The scribe records student responses to the four questions in a text document while projecting what is being recorded.  As such comments and edits take place in real-time.  Finally, the interviewer works with the class to determine consensus and to rank the responses to each question. The scribe and the interviewer then meet with you to discuss the final document that the students have generated.
Some benefits of MCI over more traditional mid-term evaluations:

  • Students have an opportunity to discuss their views of the class with other students, thus allowing them to see the diversity and commonality of views among students in the class.
  • The process focuses on centrally important elements of broad concern, thus eliminating discussion of concerns not widely held. This helps instructors understand better how their methods are being received and how efforts for change should be effectively directed.
  • Students learn from the discussion about course design, elements of good teaching, grading methods and other course aspects that otherwise remain hidden. Thus, students understand the course structure better and see how elements are designed to support their learning.
  • This process gives more in-depth information and ideas for change because the interviewers can ask follow-up questions that probe deeper than a questionnaire.
  • This process provides a fairly good assessment of what your students think constitutes “good teaching” in your context because they answer and discuss open-ended questions about their own learning and what is helping and impeding this process.
  • The process provides the opportunity for cross-fertilization of courses because students will offer ideas about teaching methods that they have experienced in other courses and find effective. Instructors can then learn from one another through the student experience.
  • This process gives students an opportunity to reflect on classroom dynamics and their own role in class success. They can talk with one another about their collective responsibility to make the class work.
  • Students appreciate having an opportunity to give feedback early enough in the term for it to make a difference for them.
  • Because the process focuses on course elements that are enhancing or impeding student learning, the professor is relatively safe from personal attacks.
  • We do not ask students if they like the course or the instructor, or if the instructor is effective or a good teacher. Rather, we focus on specific course components that are either working well or are in need of improvement.
  • You have the opportunity to talk with colleagues about your course.
  • You have the opportunity to talk with your students about your course on a new level.

Some potential limitations of the MCI include:

  • You use one entire class period around midterm, and part of a class period when you report back to your students after the interview.
  • It will take time for you and your colleagues to meet before and after the class interview.
  • You need to be willing to have a couple of your colleagues know that your teaching approach might be improved. (Everyone’s teaching could use improvement, but your colleagues will learn the specifics of how your methods might need improvement.)
  • Your students will develop the expectation that you will address those elements identified as needing improvement in the interview. You may not wish to fix them, i.e. they may be a consciously designed strategy or too labor-intensive to fix, but you will at least need to address student concerns after the interview is over.
  • You may develop an expectation that your students’ behavior will change significantly after the MCI. For example, if students identify as a barrier to learning their own habits of not reading material before class, you may become frustrated when they continue to under-prepare for class. Having realistic expectations about the impact of this process will help everyone make it a positive experience.

If you have questions or comments about the MCI program, please contact Paul Overvoorde, Associate Director of the Jan Serie Center for Scholarship and Teaching.