Mid-term Formative Evaluation: Using a PLUS/DELTA Assessment Technique

You can learn a great deal about how your students are learning in a course, and what adjustments both you and your students might make, by asking your students to give your course a mid-term evaluation. One way to do this is by using a Plus/Delta feedback tool.

The Plus/Delta feedback tool (sometimes called Plus/Change) is a means of identifying what is going well and what needs to be changed. The beauty of this tool is that it asks students 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).

Here’s how it works. Students divide a sheet of paper into quadrants. On the top left quadrant the student identifies what is working to enhance learning in the course. In the lower left quadrant the student writes what the student is doing to enhance his/her learning in the course. In the upper right quadrant the student identifies what needs to change or improve in the course or teaching approach to enhance learning. In the lower right quadrant the student identifies what he/she needs to change or improve in order to enhance his or her own learning.

These responses may be collected, summarized, and reported back to the students at the next class session, or a four-quadrant chart can be drawn on the board and students can verbally offer responses. The PLUS/DELTA can also be completed online using the Class Climate student evaluation of teaching software.

Whichever method is chosen, it is important to close the feedback loop and share the data with students. This creates a great opportunity to discuss the shared responsibility for teaching and learning in a course. You can describe what changes you will (or will not) implement as a result of their feedback and why. It also provides the opportunity for the students as a group to see what their classmates are doing that is helping them learn in the course, and what they think they need to change in order to be more successful in the course. Often times hearing these strategies from their peers is more powerful than getting the same advice from the instructor.

PLUS

DELTA

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?

(Material adapted from Helminski, L. & Koberna, S. (1995). Total quality in instruction: A systems approach. In H. V. Roberts (Ed.), Academic initiatives in total quality for higher education (pp309-362). Milwaukee, WI: ASQC Quality Press.)

Additional resource

Huba, M. E., & Freed, J. E. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.