Resources, Tips on Teaching

Midterms as a Point for Student Introspection

by Eric Royer, Instructional Developer

Midterms are more than just an opportunity to assess student learning; they provide an invaluable point for student introspection. Through in-class polls, reflective assignments, or surveys, students have an opportunity to provide feedback, both affirming and critiquing their course learning experiences as well as our teaching strategies and approaches in the classroom.

Unlike end-of-semester course evaluations, this midpoint feedback is so valuable because it’s actionable; we can take these data and make minor modifications to our courses that have an immediate impact on our students’ learning. If multiple students comment that they’re finding it difficult to keep up with class readings or they find online discussion prompts to be repetitive, we could introduce student choice into what readings they’re responsible for or introduce alternative formats for engaging them in online discussions.

This midpoint feedback is also valuable because it represents a tool to engage students in individual reflection and metacognition. In addition to course- and instructor-related questions, ask students about their individual learning approaches and strategies. What’s working for them when approaching readings? What about when they’re approaching individual assignments? How are they studying and preparing for exams? What’s working for them when approaching writing assignments or labs? As Saundra McGuire notes in Emphasizing Two Underutilized Dimensions of Learning: Metacognition and Motivation, having students think about their own thought processes allows them to individually diagnose their learning strategies, which increases motivation and student agency in the learning process.

To make this student feedback as effective as possible, be targeted in your questions, focusing student attention on particular areas of concern or patterns you’ve identified so far. Also consider giving students class time to provide feedback, whether that’s by having them complete a survey on their own or in a whole-group setting through anonymous polls. Taking class time to discuss this feedback and the process itself is also important; students see that you’re interested in making improvements that directly impact their learning and collective course experience. To schedule a consultation to talk further about your teaching needs, please contact the Reinert Center. The Reinert Center also offers Small-Group Instructional Feedback Sessions as a means of finding out how students are experiencing a class.