At the halfway point in the semester, I use something similar to the check sheet that is in the Instructor’s Manual for the On Course text. I call it a Mid-Course Check, and I introduce it with an analogy to the flight plan that pilots must submit prior to taking off for their destination. I usually focus on a flight from Austin to Hawaii for Spring Break or over the Christmas holidays (that usually gets their attention right away!). I point out that much of the time the airplane is off-course one way or another due to weather, etc., but that the plane arrives (generally on time!) because of the essential navigational and communication feedback that the pilots receive along the way.

Then I refer them to their own “flight plan”, the vision of success statement that they filled out for themselves at the beginning of the semester. I give them the form below and have them rate themselves on their behavior and performance. I remind them that at this point they are well out over the Pacific, and in definite need for some effective feedback on where they are and where they are headed! When I collect and read over the comments, I give feedback in terms of the analogy I used in class. I often write something like, “On course, on time, headed for a smooth landing! or “It looks like you are on course, just fighting some ‘head winds’! If things are looking grim, I might comment that it seems as though the student is running low on fuel or skimming the wave tops. Occasionally I have students who are headed for Guam or Panama by the looks of their remarks. Using the analogy allows for a different sort of feedback, one that is both not so threatening, and yet emotionally powerful, it seems. I can then pay more attention to those in danger of ditching into the water with no rescue vessels in sight….

Once the students have completed their mid-course check, I make references to it often in the subsequent weeks as we approach the end of the semester. Directing their attention to their own behavior, choices, and goals seems to be very helpful in making them more strategic, self-directed learners. Now as for those students who choose to stop flying when they are only halfway to Hawaii, any other suggestions would be appreciated. Anyone know of an aircraft carrier that can be leased on demand??

Here is the form I use:

Mid-Course Check
Name __________________

We are now about half of the way through the semester. It is time to do a mid-course check on your expectations, intentions, and accomplishments so far. Respond to the questions below as honestly and accurately as you can so that you will know whether you are “on course” or “off-course” in your journey towards achieving your “vision” of success. This type of self-assessment makes it possible to reorient yourself along the way while there is still time to make a difference.

1. How accurate have your expectations been about your courses and your studying to this point? What has been surprising, unexpected, or especially challenging? Have you met your own intentions of how you would be doing?

2. Considering each of your classes, briefly respond to the following questions:

How have you been doing in terms of attendance and attention in class?

How well have you been keeping up-to-date with your reading, homework assignments, personal study time, preparation for tests, etc.?

What do your grades look like so far? Are you doing as well as you want?

3. How well have you been managing your use of time? Are you organized enough to get the important things done in your schoolwork and your life?

4. What do you want to keep doing and what changes do you need to make to stay on course towards success? When and how will you begin? Be specific.

–Tobin Quereau, Faculty, Behavioral Sciences, Austin Community College, TX

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