Do you wish you could read your students’ minds? While not exactly a mind-reading tool, ESP focus groups will tell you what your students are thinking about your course and how to make it better. Conducted at the mid-semester point, ESPs ask your students to reflect on what helps and hinders their learning and solicits their suggestions for improvement. ESPs are facilitated by a trained CTE teaching consultant who will also help you interpret the feedback and brainstorm strategies for addressing it. Instead of individual student opinions provided through end-of-semester evaluations, ESPs give you a majority feedback that you can use right away—not next semester. And another benefit: Students highly value your interest in their ideas about the course!
ESPs are conducted between the fourth and ninth weeks of the semester.
How does an ESP focus group work?
- Arrange for a CTE consultant to visit your class on a convenient day.
- End your class 25 minutes early, introduce the consultant, and go on your way.
- In small groups, the students answer the following questions:
- What most helps you learn in the course?
- What most impedes your learning?
- What suggestions for improvements do you have for the instructor and your peers?
- Each group generates feedback to these prompts; the consultant clarifies any vague comments and establishes what the majority of students thinks is important to communicate about the course.
- The consultant transcribes the responses and meets with you for approximately 30 minutes to discuss the feedback and offers suggestions for responding to the suggestions.
How beneficial is an ESPs?
Both faculty and TAs report that ESPs provide helpful ways to thinking about and improve their teaching. In their words:
It was very enlightening in many respects. I received some instructive feedback about the course; far better than the information I get from course evaluations.
The process gave me some practical tools necessary to lead a small group discussion.
I felt like my course was going well, and it was nice to have this affirmed. The suggestions and constructive criticisms from the students were good to have, and, in my opinion, were accurate. I have endeavored to make improvements.