Midterm evaluations provide little insight

By Editorial Board

In previous semesters, students who had poor attendance or were in danger of receiving low or failing grades in a course received progress reports during the fifth week of the semester. This semester, all students—including those doing satisfactory or better work—received midterm progress reports at week six. Professors were required to submit their evaluations by midnight Oct. 17.

The sixth-week progress reports are intended to inform students of their performance before midterm exams and the end of the withdrawal period, as reported Sept. 8 by The Chronicle. 

The progress reports sent to students via email indicated whether students were exceeding or meeting basic expectations or if they were not making satisfactory academic progress, followed by a cursory explanation of what those terms mean. 

Students exceeding basic expectations “are performing at a very high level in the course, typically shown as earning high grades on assignments and demonstrating a deep engagement with course content,” while students meeting basic expectations “tend to demonstrate behavior proven to produce success in college, such as consistent attendance, class participation, and on-time completion of assignments,” according to the progress reports. No grades or personal feedback from professors was included in the progress reports. 

Students who are not meeting expectations benefit from receiving these reports. The emailed report outlines the impact poor student performance can have on the student’s GPA or financial aid, as well as providing information about on-campus resources that can assist the student in meeting expectations, such as The Learning Studio or the College Advising Center. 

For students who are meeting or exceeding expectations, the progress reports are vague, and performance expectations are not defined. It is unclear whether a student is being judged by the standards of their department or a professor’s particular standards. Without any genuine feedback from faculty, the reports provide little actual insight into how a student is performing at week six of the semester. It would be much more helpful to know how the ratings corresponded to grades.

Consistency of updating grades and communicating student achievement varies greatly from professor to professor. Mandatory progress reports are an excellent opportunity for students to receive feedback from professors who are less conscientious about updating grades in Moodle. However, it is up to professors to take the progress reports seriously. Students say some professors have told students they gave the entire class the same rating, while some did not mention the reports to their classes at all.

Ultimately, grades tell the most about a student’s performance. Incorporating grades into the progress report—or even mandating that grades be posted to Moodle by week six—would be more valuable in informing students of their academic achievements before midterms.