Midterms: A valuable time for formative assessment

The midpoint of the semester is an important opportunity for students to understand their progress in a course. As an instructor, you can help students understand their standing in the course through midterm grade submission. Midterms are due Friday, October 12 by 2:15 p.m. and can be submitted electronically via Canvas or AccessPlus. More information about grading policies on the ISU Catalog Grading website. Read more about how to calculate midterms from the Calculate Grades for Submission in Canvas web guide.

Using midterms as an opportunity for meaningful and purposeful assessment paired with constructive feedback can help learners understand and address their achievement gaps and organize future learning. CELT has prepared information regarding low- and high-stakes quizzes within Canvas that provides a way for instructors to deliver helpful feedback, and assess learning via the Low and High-Stakes Quizzes in Canvas web guide.

This time in the semester is also a wonderful opportunity to informally collect student feedback on the day-to day operations of the course. The Midterm Assessment Technique (also known as the Plus/Delta) is a tool used in the fourth through eighth week of the semester. The beauty of this tool is that students are asked to focus on what is working to advance their learning in the course and what could be improved by the teacher and by the student. It helps students to think about their responsibility to the course and what they should continue doing to learn (PLUS) and what they need to change for the course to improve for them (DELTA) (Helminski & Koberna, 1995). The plus delta can be completed on paper, online using Canvas, TopHat, or Qualtrics, asking these four questions:


  • What is helping me to learn in this class?
  • What changes are needed in this course to improve learning?


  • What am I doing to improve my learning in the course?
  • What do I need to do to improve my learning in this course?

Once the students complete the plus delta, the instructor collects the information and summarizes it to report the themes in each category back to the class in the next session. The feedback loop creates the opportunity to discuss the shared responsibility for teaching and learning in a course. Instructors can also describe what changes will (or will not) be implemented as a result of their feedback. To learn more, visit CELT’s Using a PLUS/DELTA Assessment Technique webpage.

According to Dr. Kelly Reddy-Best, an assistant professor in the College of Human Sciences:

I have a class of 300 students resulting in lots of different types of people, and when I summarize it back to them it helps me show them why there are different types of activities in the course: readings, quizzes, group work. Some of them say they love the group work, but hate the quizzes, while the other say the opposite. The plus-delta summary helps show them why different methods are used in the course to cater to different learning styles!

If you are interested in assessment and midterm grading practices, join CELT at the ISU-OLC (Online Learning Community) meeting on Friday, October 12 (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 0031 Parks Library) register to attend through the Learn@ISU website.

Sara Marcketti, Director

Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Midterms: A valuable time for formative assessment (October 4, 2018 – Constant Contact) website.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for October 4 (PDF)

Seeking applications for two CELT Faculty Fellows positions

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching is seeking applications for two CELT Faculty Fellows positions. These are half time appointments to begin spring semester 2019 or fall semester 2019.  One Faculty Fellow will lead the development of a new Teaching and Learning Academy and provide leadership in the Teaching Partners Program. The other Faculty Fellow will lead CELT efforts in the area of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) and assessment. 

Download the CELT Programming Faculty Fellow (PDF)

Download the CELT Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Faculty Fellow (PDF)

CELT Accessibility Awareness Week (Oct. 15-19)

graphically representation of a mind, an eye, and ear and a person over a smart device and two hands opening under the iconsCELT is hosting a number of hands-on accessibility workshops in concert with Disability Awareness Week, view upcoming events on ISU’s Disability Awareness Week website.

Register via the Learn@ISU website.

What defines effective teaching, and how do we measure it? Plus, four exciting CELT opportunities (Teaching Tip)

Dear ISU Community,

CELT will have four exciting opportunities for you to engage, connect, and participate in enhancing the teaching and learning mission of Iowa State University. Please direct any questions to me at sbb@iastate.edu.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Sara Marcketti

View the four exciting opportunities:


Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: What defines effective teaching, and how do we measure it? Plus, four exciting CELT opportunities (September 20, 2018 – Constant Contact) website.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for September 20 (PDF)

2019-20 Miller Faculty Fellowship proposals due Dec. 10

Miller Faculty Fellowships have provided funding to over 800 faculty to improve the undergraduate teaching and learning experience at Iowa State University. The Miller Faculty Fellowship Program provides recipients with opportunities to enhance their scholarly work in the undergraduate academic programs of the university and to develop innovative approaches to enhance student learning. Recipients will have up to twelve months to meet the goals of their Fellowship project.

The deadline for Miller Faculty Fellowship proposals for the 2019-20 academic year is Monday, Dec. 10. Program and application details are online. Questions may be directed to CELT at celt-miller@iastate.edu

First Annual Canvas Conference @ ISU (Oct. 18)

Canvas by Instructure logo

Would your course benefit from all section instructors using the same information?

Do you seek ways for students to collaborate through video in Canvas?

If so, join representatives from Canvas and CELT staff for the engaging first annual Canvas conference @ ISU on Thursday, October 18

Kick Off Session with Canvas Customer Success Rep, Ryan Jacobson

(9:30-10 a.m., 206 Durham Center)

Ryan will be discussing the Canvas Roadmap of future releases and giving an overview of Canvas mobile apps.

The Power of Blueprint and You!

(10-11:30 a.m., 206 Durham Center)

Do you work with a group to create course materials? Would your course benefit from all section instructors using the same information? Or maybe you are in charge of a large enrollment course and want all students to have a consistent experience. Use of a Blueprint course might be the Canvas tool that allows you to quit spending so much time on course administration and gets you back to teaching! If any of these things describe you, please come hear more about Blueprint by learning from CELT experts and fellow instructors at Iowa State have implemented this process and saved time while doing it.

Amazing Arc: Engaging Students to Actively Collaborate through Video

(1-2:30 p.m., 206 Durham Center)

Arc is an innovative video tool. Canvas product manager, CELT staff, and advanced Arc users will show examples of using Arc tools in their courses. Additional tools to be covered are the new screen recorder with editing capabilities, creating and editing video captioning as well as downloading Arc caption files to reuse in other video hosting services. Additional topics include best practices for facilitating video commenting and discussions as wells as how to reflect Arc assignments in the grade book and reading Arc analytics to look for problem areas that be addressed with redesigning your Arc video assignments.


To participate in one or more of these programs, register via this Canvas Conference @ISU Quatrics weblink.

Announcing two TBL workshops by Team-Based Learning expert Dr. Peter Balan (Sept. 26 & 27)

Peter Balan

Next week, Peter Balan OAM BSc, BE(Hons), MBM, Ph.D., a faculty member in the School of Management at the University of South Australia, and Team-Based Learning (TBL) Consultant will be visiting ISU (view Balan’s LinkedIn web profile). He will be conducting two TBL workshops on may be of great interest to you (see program descriptions below).

During the past several years, several Iowa State University faculty, staff, and graduate teaching assistants have attended the Annual Team-Based Learning Collaborative (TBLC) Conference that draw TBL faculty from throughout the US and around the world. Peter is a frequent and very popular presenter and TBLC leader. Our community has found him engaging and innovative.

Please consider attending if this is of interest to you by registering via the Learn@ISU website or email celt@iastate.edu.

Workshop, How to Easily Generate Research from your Teaching Activities (Sept. 26, 3:10-5 p.m., 198 Parks Library)

How might you generate valuable research from your teaching activities even if you don’t have expertise in educational or social science research methods? Peter Balan, OAM BSc, BE(Hons), MBM, PhD, faculty member in the School of Management at the University of South Australia and Team Based Learning Consultant is visiting ISU. Peter will lead a hands on workshop sharing his validated methodology that you can adopt to generate research data on the fly in your classroom. Please join us to learn this valuable method led by the faculty member who developed it. In this workshop, Peter will demonstrate his method of analysis using data contributed by participants. He will also show examples of the analysis of small, medium, and large datasets using this method.

Peter Balan has analysed more than 100 data sets using this method, and is publishing papers using this form of analysis. His approach to concept mapping is published in: Balan, P., Balan-Vnuk, E., Metcalfe, M. & Lindsay, N.J. 2015, ‘Concept mapping as a methodical and transparent data analysis process’, in Elsbach, K.D. & Kramer, R.M. (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Organizational Research: Innovative Pathways and Methods , Taylor & Francis/Routledge, New York, pp. 318-330.

Workshop, Ensuring Student Buy-In for Pre-Learning in Flipped or TBL Classes (Sept. 27, 12:10-1 p.m., 2015 Morrill Hall)

Are you interested in adopting TBL or flipped classroom approaches but face student resistance? Flipped or TBL teaching methods require students to pre-learn course materials before a teaching session, where exercises rely on students using self-gained knowledge. This is the reverse to “traditional” teaching when course materials are presented during a lecture, and students are assessed on that material during another session at a later stage. Peter Balan OAM BSc, BE(Hons), MBM, PhD, faculty member in the School of Management at the University of South Australia and TBL Consultant will lead a hands on session taking participants though an introductory orientation class session that prepares and engages students to successfully participate in courses requiring pre-learning. This approach has been implemented very successfully and effectively in a range of courses in different countries, and is documented in the paper (Balan, Clark, & Restall, 2015). Each participant will leave with a comprehensive kit to implement this orientation session. Lunch will be provided for this workshop.

Balan, P., Clark, M. & Restall, G. 2015, ‘Preparing students for Flipped or Team-Based Learning methods’, Education + Training, vol . 57, no. 6, pp. 639-657. (ERA A*)

How to register?

Register for one or both of these workshops on the Learn@ISU website or email celt@iastate.edu.

Authentic Problems: What to do when learners just aren’t getting it? (Monica Lamm) *New Day/Time* – Oct. 10 (12:10-1 p.m.)

Monica LammWe have a new day/time for Associate Professor Monica Lamm’s Award-Winning Seminar, “Authentic Problems: What to do when learners just aren’t getting it?” This event will now be held on Wednesday, October 10 (12:10-1 p.m.)

Monica Lamm, Associate Professor, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Outstanding Achievement in Teaching awardee, uses ill-structured problems in her upper-level classes. Sometimes, these problem-solving exercises do not go according to plan. Participants in this workshop will learn practical ways to use authentic problems in their classrooms, how to lower barriers for students to engage with the sorts of undefined problems they will encounter in the workplace, and what to do when learners miss the mark. Learn how to maximize learning, critical thinking, and problem solving when conditions are not perfect. Participants are encouraged to share their own authentic classroom problems and inspire each other.

To register for the face-to-face program, visit the Learn@ISU website or view on your own via Zoom registration website, http://bit.ly/2LwYJfr).


Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness Talks on Sept. 26 & Oct. 1

What defines effective teaching, and how do we measure it? These questions are critically important to the teaching mission and to faculty careers. The ISU Faculty Handbook states that “When teaching is part of the faculty assignment, effectiveness is an essential criterion for advancement.” CELT will be hosting two nationally recognized scholars who will share their research on Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness, with particular focus on:
  • Student Evaluations of Teaching (September 26, 12-1:30pm) with Dr. Elizabeth Barre, Executive Director of the Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Wake Forest University. Lunch will be provided.
  • Improving Faculty Evaluations (October 1, 1-2:30pm) with Dr. Andrea Greenhoot, Director & Gautt Teaching Scholar, Kansas University. Refreshments will be served.

About the Presenters

Registration: To guarantee your place in these important conversations, register to attend using the Evaluating of Teaching Effectiveness Talks Qualtrics survey weblink
Sponsored by the AAU Mini Grant Program.

How do you know your online course is meeting the needs of your students?

Do you ever wonder if there is a way to receive feedback on your online courses? Quality Matters (QM), is a nation-wide, faculty-centered, peer review process designed to certify the quality of online courses and online components.
The QM Rubric includes 8 standards to improve your course:

  1. Course Overview and Introduction
  2. Learning Objectives (Competencies)
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Instructional Materials
  5. Learning Activities and Learner Interaction
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility and Usability

Within these standards are specific action steps that you can use today to enhance your online course. These include:

  • Organizing your course materials into modules, units, or topics so that your content is easier for your students to navigate
  • Providing messages on the front page of your course to welcome your students to your course and guide them on where to begin
  • Linking to the Online Learner Support page within MyCanvas Student website with many of the on-campus resources that students need to succeed in your course.

CELT at Iowa State University subscribes to QM. As such you have the opportunity to improve your course, network with fellow QM users, and streamline accreditation preparation.

  • Online Course Improvement: CELT offers two on-campus QM workshops to learn the underlying principles of QM and help you review your own courses and develop a course improvement plan.
  • Canvas Course Templates: CELT has developed a Canvas Template that helps to meet many of the Quality Matters standards. Even if you are not interested in QM Certification, this template can help to organize your online course materials and give you a head start on your Canvas course creation
  • Network with Fellow QM Users: Join the Quality Matters Learning Community in which members will have opportunities to hear about ways to meet the QM standards, as well as discussing best practices, experiences, and solutions to course design problems. No prior QM experience is needed to attend. We hope that you will join us for our first meeting on Sept. 19 (3-4:30 p.m.), register via Learn@ISU.
  • Assistance with Streamlining Online Course Accreditation Preparation: If your program, department, or unit is undergoing accreditation, QM provides an in-depth Program Certification process. It provides a framework for the collection and analysis of evidence related to an institution’s online programs – the same evidence that can be used to support accreditation. For information regarding online program accreditation and QM, please visit QM’s Streamlining Accreditation Preparation with Program Review page.

A previous participant sung the praises of CELT QM Coordinator Darrin Jones and the program:

“Darrin knows the QM material very well and is able to present it in a highly practical and orderly manner to make the best use of our time in the workshop. The mix of presenting information and giving time to review our own course materials worked very well. I especially appreciated the final worksheet that brought all of the information together into a prioritized “To Do” list for our own courses. I highly recommend this workshop for anyone teaching an online course.”

If you are interested in seeing the QM Canvas Template, or if you have any questions regarding Quality Matters, please visit the On-Campus Quality Matters Workshop page, or contact Darrin Jones in CELT via email darrinj@iastate.edu or call 515-294-6072.

Best wishes,
Sara Marcketti
Director, CELT

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: How do you know your online course is meeting the needs of your students? (September 6, 2018 – Constant Contact) website.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the Teaching Tip September 6 (PDF)