Midterms: A valuable time for formative assessment (Teaching Tip)

The midpoint of the semester is an important opportunity for your students to examine their progress in a course. As an instructor, you can help students become aware of their standing through the midterm grade submission. Midterm grades are due on Friday, October 18 by 2:15 p.m., and are submitted electronically via Canvas or AccessPlus. Read about grading policies on the ISU Catalog Grading website. Learn how-to calculate midterms from the Calculate Grades for Submission in Canvas web guide.

Using midterms as an opportunity for purposeful assessment paired with constructive feedback can help learners identify and address their achievement gaps for learning. CELT has prepared information about low- and high-stakes quizzes in Canvas to provide a way for you to deliver valuable 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 your course. The Midterm Assessment Technique (also known as the Plus/Delta) is a tool utilized during the fourth through the eighth week of the semester. The advantage of this tool is that students are asked to focus on what is working to advance their learning, and what could be improved by the teacher and by the student. It helps students to reflect about their responsibility to your course, 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 open-ended 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, you collect the information and summarize it to report the themes in each category back to your class in the next session. The feedback loop creates the opportunity to discuss the shared responsibility for teaching and learning in your course. You may further specify what modifications 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!

With a joy for teaching,

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 assessments (October 3, 2019 – 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 3, 2019 (PDF)