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)