It is midterm time at my institution which means I just sent a flurry of nagging emails to students warning them that they owe me work. Participation in my online classes has dropped off as tests and assignments in other classes compete with our usual routine. I don’t give midterm exams because I teach writing and only mark midterm at all because I need to turn in grades. By this point all my classes have completed one or two larger assignments and I typically divide my community, reflection, and self-assessment assignments into two parts because it helps students adjust their course if necessary – or provides affirmation at a time when they are in need of a boost. In the midst of all the midterm business it is easy to forget what a great opportunity this time is to check in and possibly reset.
As I’ve written about many times before. I am a big believer in self-assessment. This blog is one of my professional self-assessment tools that helps me look back on what I have done – and what I learned from that experience – as well as investigate topics I want to know more about. Monica Burns suggests that midterm is a great time for every teacher to reassess their professional development goals in her article “Mid-Year Reflection: Setting PD Goals.” It makes perfect sense as at this point you know your students and their individual challenges as well as how well your existing strategies and materials are serving those students.
I already build regular self-assessment into my students’ work for each class. However, I am a huge fan of Natalie Houston’s suggestion to conduct a formal or informal conversation with your classes to determine what needs to be revisited. Check out her Profhacker post “It’s Not Too Late: Making Mid-Course Adjustments” for more of her thoughts about that idea.
As noted above, I regularly check in with my students (at the end of each unit this semester) using self-assessment journals but at midterm I also like to hold little pep rallies awarding badges and celebrating ourselves as a reminder that the semester hasn’t killed us yet. My students’ self-assessment journals are filled with talk of stress – both life and school – and if I can give them an hour break from that and send them into their exams with renewed energy and optimism then I consider my investment of time and chocolate well spent.
I like to think about midterm as a time to reassess what I am doing, reflect on what I have learned about myself, my class, and my students to determine if changes need to be made. I strongly encourage my students to do the same. Do you view midterm as a time of reflection and re-evaluation? What do you do to hit the reset button at midterm?