Photo of a one-on-one meeting with a professor and student.
Photo by Bill Adams/ The University of Iowa.

As the final month of the semester begins, instructors and students begin to worry about the many assignments, projects, papers, lab reports, presentations, quizzes, exams, and grading that must be accomplished before the end of Finals Week.  The following strategies for mid-semester assessment can clarify and solidify some of the teaching and learning successes that occur during the course.

  • Ask students to self-assess their learning so far. One-minute papers, in-class discussion, online discussion boards, and other forums can provide students the opportunity to reflect on and articulate what they have learned and how it relates to other courses and their lives. Questions such as, “What have you learned that surprised you?” and “What new skill have you acquired and how will you apply it once you’ve graduated?” will encourage students to go beyond listing fundamental knowledge to describe, analyze, apply, and synthesize their learning. Memorizing the Periodic Table is laudable (perhaps), but it does not alone indicate an understanding of the natural coherence or explanatory power of that resource.
  • Invite students to share with their peers the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind they have acquired by “teaching” each other. One simple approach:  students turn to a neighbor during class and present a two-minute “elevator speech” (prepared beforehand), to which the listener must ask two “how” or “why” questions that challenge the speaker. The presenting student then must find the answers after class and share them with their skeptical neighbor-student. Each round of elevator speech and skeptics’ questions takes five minutes, and then the roles are reversed.
  • For mid-semester formative assessment of teaching, contact the Center for Teaching ( to observe a class or to conduct a Classroom Assessment by Student Interview (CLASSI), followed by a one-on-one confidential consultation.