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Midterm Self-Assessment: Review, Reflect, Refine

The halfway point of a course is an optimal time to assess student learning. Midterms also offer an opportunity for self-assessment by both students and instructors.  

A helpful three-part framework for midterm self-assessment is to review key concepts, reflect on the course experience so far, and refine practices for more success and fewer challenges in the second half of the course. 

1. Review 

Reviewing key concepts is an essential first step.  

Empower students to create their own study guide from the learning outcomes in the first half of the course. For each learning outcome, ask students to self-assess their confidence: 

  • Fully confident – I can do this! 

  • Somewhat confident – I have a few questions 

  • Not very confident – I need to review this 

  • I’m lost … what does this mean? 

Use the Jigsaw technique to group students into study teams where one student is the expert on the concept being reviewed, and the others are less confident about their mastery of that learning outcome. Be sure to rotate the groups so each student gets to be an expert at least once. 

2. Reflect 

Reflection is at the core of meaningful self-assessment.  

Invite students to share (either during class or in an online discussion) the successes and challenges they’ve been facing in the course. Discussion prompts could include: 

  • What is one concept you have learned about so far in this course that stands out to you as particularly useful or meaningful? Why? 

  • As we approach the midterm, what concept from the first half of the course do you most need to review? Why? 

  • What has been your biggest challenge in this course so far? Why? 

Instructors can use this information to customize a midterm review lesson that focuses on the muddiest concepts and guides students to useful campus resources. For example, does your tutoring center offer helpful workshops ahead of midterms? 

In an online discussion, students can engage with each other’s reflections by suggesting one strategy for overcoming the challenge a classmate is facing, based on the information they shared in their post. 

3. Refine 

While end-of-course evaluations are useful for making changes for the next group, a midterm practice of review and reflection allows both the instructor and the students to make changes that will optimize the remainder of their time together this term. 

Invite students to share what both they and their instructor can do differently in the second half of the course. Discussion prompts could include: 

  • What’s one thing you’re doing that’s working well for you, that you plan to keep doing for the rest of the course?  

  • Is there anything you’re doing that’s not working well for you, that you plan to stop doing? 

  • What’s one thing your instructor is doing that’s working well for you, that you want them to keep doing for the rest of the course?  

  • Is there anything your instructor is doing that’s not working well for you, that you want them to stop doing? 

Instructors should emphasize that suggestions will lead to immediate action on their part. For example, if several students share that they find reviewing the previous week’s concepts an unnecessary use of class time, the instructor might record a weekly preview/ review video instead so concept reviews are still provided, but class time can be used for activities that benefit everyone. 

Midterms present an exciting opportunity to review, reflect, and refine for a strong finish to the course. 

About the Author

Anna Johnson is an award-winning instructor at Mt Hood Community College in Oregon where she has worn many hats since 2005. Joining the faculty as an instruction librarian, Anna then spent 10 years as a career-technical instructor, preparing students for living-wage jobs as administrative assistants and front-end web developers, and now leads the college’s Business transfer degree program. Anna enjoys using problem-based learning and flipped classroom methodologies to prepare students for future workplace challenges. When she's not teaching, Anna is an avid cook, formidable fantasy football player, National Park enthusiast, and volunteer usher and tour guide for Portland's performing arts center. Anna has supported other instructors in their use of SIMnet as an MHE Digital Faculty Consultant since 2015.

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