Midterm and Final comments are necessary for every student’s academic journey. Amidst inconsistent standards between classes and each student’s unique academic place, midterm and final comments provide a necessary broad view of a student’s performance: material engagement, class participation, and general attitude as a learner. With this in mind, midterm comments actually becomes even more critical than final comments as there is still an opportunity to grow in the current term, allowing students to reorient their learning goals.
In a 2021 News article, Pass/Fail: Midterm Comments Become Focal Point of Midterm Grades, Heidi Wall, Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, explained the change behind the Math department switching from a one to six grade to a Pass/Fail with comments.
“Our decision to move away from a number grade at the midterm was an effort to put more emphasis on the instructor’s comment and the feedback provided to the student in the comment. The midterm is a great time for students to reflect on their own progress and growth as learners. Sometimes a number grade can get in the way of a student really thinking about what they need to work on. Our hope was that focusing more on the feedback and less on the grade itself would help students to continue to grow as learners in their math classes,” wrote Wall in an email to The Phillipian.
The purpose of this change was to emphasize student-teacher communication that is more conducive to a student’s growth as a learner. However, neither number grades nor comments are given, at odds with the original spirit of the change. With no standard as to how in-depth and how often comments need to be throughout the term, mid-term and final comments serve as a critical checkpoint in the academic year.
It’s unrealistic and, frankly, redundant to have midterm comments for everyone. Instead, midterm comments should only be reserved for students who are struggling in class. For other students, detailed feedback received through major assignments, homework, and conferences with teachers renders midterm comments unnecessary. For those who want feedback beyond what’s already given, it is their personal responsibility to seek communication with their teachers. Considering a teacher’s workload, accommodating midterm comments for all students when some students require more support than others is impractical.
Students already receive feedback in a variety of channels, whether that is through corrections on a math test, comments on an English paper, or verbal communication in class. This is sufficient to guide a student’s learning, granted that students receive this feedback in the first place, which is a separate discussion beyond midterm comments. Students need to understand that if they are doing well in their class, they should not expect to receive extra feedback like midterm comments.
The essence of midterm comments is to address whether the student is fulfilling the requirements of the class. If the student is already fulfilling these expectations, the Pass in the grade book is already an indication of this, no longer necessary for a teacher to add comments. Qualitative feedback about exactly how well a student is doing in class should come from the baseline feedback already established, not through midterm comments.
This is not to understate the important comments. Comments are necessary for a student’s growth as a learner in Andover. However, for well-performing students, these detailed comments should be coming from the baseline of feedback students receive, not from midterm comments. The current system, providing comments to struggling students only, is a proper balance of student expectations and teacher support.
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