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#1
Old 05-09-2014, 12:34 PM
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"Midterm week" at college - huh?

I recently applied for a faculty position at a community college. Yesterday I looked at their academic calendar, and each semester has the usual stuff listed - registration, classes begin, last day to drop, finals week, etc. But also, halfway through each semester, there is a week labeled "midterm exams."

I've been a student at eight different colleges and universities during my life, and worked at three others, in three states (all on the West Coast, if it matters). I've never heard of such a thing. Everywhere I've studied/worked, the number of exams given, and when they are given, is up to the individual instructor. The most common model I experienced as a student was to have two exams during the quarter, roughly 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through. I myself prefer to give three exams, to narrow down the amount of material that needs to be studied for each (students seem to prefer this). If I was teaching in the semester system, I'd probably give four or five exams over the course of the term. And, I base the timing of tests on when a particular unit is finished, not "Exam 1 must be done on Day 6, as that is 1/4 of the way through the term."

I realize policies will vary from college to college, but is this "midterm week" thing common? Does this mean this college requires that a single midterm be given, and it must be done during that week?
#2
Old 05-09-2014, 12:38 PM
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Midterm week was a "thing" at my university. Usually held around the end of October and then right before Spring Break.
#3
Old 05-09-2014, 01:01 PM
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Every college I've been to had mid-term week. I thought it was universal.
#4
Old 05-09-2014, 01:45 PM
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I'm on the east coast and have always had midterm week. Not all teachers have midterm exams at that point, but that's when midterm grades went out. So if you were failing a course you got notification around that time.
#5
Old 05-09-2014, 01:55 PM
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At my alma mater (Georgia Tech, for those not familiar with college mascots) it was an unofficial but very real thing. The college had drop day for the semester about halfway through the semester, and a policy that at least some significant coursework must be returned to the student before drop day (presumably so they could know if they were hopeless lost or doing fine before the dropped the course). The end result was that a lot of professors just scheduled a midterm exam for the week before drop day, so we had an unofficial midterm week.

Now, it wasn't mandatory, and many professors had a class structure that handled it differently (maybe two projects before, two projects after, or even a class with no exams ), but it was certainly a thing. I don't know if the college you're looking at has a policy "Thou must givest thine students a midterm, a single midterm, and it must be the appointed week" or if it's more "this is a good timeframe for a midterm if you're into that thing", but it wouldn't surprise me either way.

EDIT: much like partypooper, our professors had to give us a satisfactory or unsatisfactory in the course, which generally amount to "if this person would fail even with a generous curve, they get a U". I think that only applied to freshman/sophomore level classes, though.

Last edited by yellowjacketcoder; 05-09-2014 at 01:57 PM.
#6
Old 05-09-2014, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by partypooper View Post
I'm on the east coast and have always had midterm week. Not all teachers have midterm exams at that point, but that's when midterm grades went out. So if you were failing a course you got notification around that time.
At my alma mater (on the east coast), freshman and sophomore level courses (i.e. 100 and 200 level courses) had mandatory midterm grades. The instructor actually had to fill out a form (or possibly an online equivalent) and formally assign you a midterm grade as of a specified cutoff "midterm" date. The point, of course, was to let those without a lot of college experience get advance, formal warning of problems. Iirc there wasn't any requirement that there be a specific midterm exam, and the midterm grades didn't go on your official transcript. If you got a C- on your midterm report card/grade report but managed to bring your average up to a B by the end of the course, your transcript would just have a B on it.

Most instructors, regardless of the presence or absence of specific midterm grades, provided enough feedback by the middle of the course so that you could tell if you were doing reasonably well.
#7
Old 05-09-2014, 03:51 PM
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Only one place I taught or was a student at had it and it was purely a fiction in the mind of the students. There was nothing in the faculty handbook about it. Not a thing. It specifically said that the number (if any) and timing of exams was solely up to the Prof.

But the students thought the World Was Coming To An End! when I did the midterm after the halfway point. E.g., for a 10 week quarter I'd schedule it during the 6th week. Otherwise it's a test on less than half the material (especially if you factor in getting the results back before the drop date).

Having a late drop date just reinforced this. Everywhere else had a much shorter drop window so midterm date wasn't even thought of.

Logic, rules. These were lost on students who "knew" what the rules were. Not only that, but there were certain that this was the Official System everywhere! Grrr.
#8
Old 05-09-2014, 04:02 PM
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Here at Siena there are midterm grades, but I think it's up to the instructor to decide what goes into them, and there's no actual time set for them (though the grades do have to be posted by a certain date).
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#9
Old 05-09-2014, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by ftg View Post
Only one place I taught or was a student at had it and it was purely a fiction in the mind of the students. There was nothing in the faculty handbook about it. Not a thing. It specifically said that the number (if any) and timing of exams was solely up to the Prof.

But the students thought the World Was Coming To An End! when I did the midterm after the halfway point. E.g., for a 10 week quarter I'd schedule it during the 6th week. Otherwise it's a test on less than half the material (especially if you factor in getting the results back before the drop date).

Having a late drop date just reinforced this. Everywhere else had a much shorter drop window so midterm date wasn't even thought of.

Logic, rules. These were lost on students who "knew" what the rules were. Not only that, but there were certain that this was the Official System everywhere! Grrr.
To be fair, it's a pretty crappy thing for a professor to do to a student. And by "it", I mean have a huge majority of the grade come well after the time when a student can drop the class.

I can't tell if that's what you did (since I don't know what your class was set up as or when drop day was). But I did have a few classes where all that would be given back to students before drop day was some trivial assignment worth 5% of their grade, only to find that the 25% project, 30% midterm, and 40% final were murderous in difficulty. I swear some professors delighted in failing their students, and they were the ones that did stuff like backload their classes with hefty projects well after the drop day.

Last edited by yellowjacketcoder; 05-09-2014 at 04:30 PM.
#10
Old 05-09-2014, 04:30 PM
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I thought mid-terms were given to reduce the amount of material needed to be covered on finals.

Last edited by Winston Smith; 05-09-2014 at 04:30 PM.
#11
Old 05-09-2014, 04:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yellowjacketcoder View Post
At my alma mater (Georgia Tech, for those not familiar with college mascots) it was an unofficial but very real thing. . . .
San Diego State University: midterms week was a thing. Probably unofficial, but it seemed pretty common.

I always thought it was designed to prep students for finals week. Sort of a dry run. "If you think this is hectic...is it! Get used to it!"
#12
Old 05-09-2014, 05:33 PM
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University of Wisconsin system. No official mid terms, at least not in the technical courses.

We had exams all the damn time! Difficult ones, too.

A pure midterm-plus-final would be useless for learning in the tech courses. There were too many concepts, and they built on the previous material. Without feedback from tests you could get seriously lost very fast. Imagine calc or diffy-q with only two exams. No one except geniusses would pass.

Last edited by Just Asking Questions; 05-09-2014 at 05:35 PM. Reason: clarification
#13
Old 05-09-2014, 05:42 PM
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No midterm weeks where I was at, but my university was on the quarter system, if that matters. I seem to remember two tests and a final being a common format, but some teachers did a mid-term and a final, and some had more frequent tests leading up to a final. There was no consistency to it that I saw.
#14
Old 05-09-2014, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Lanzy View Post
Every college I've been to had mid-term week. I thought it was universal.
Same here. Even had it in high skool. Maybe its a 'semester' thing?

Last edited by Little_Pig; 05-09-2014 at 09:49 PM.
#15
Old 05-09-2014, 10:41 PM
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At my university, some classes have a single midterm at the midpoint, some have a pair of midterms at around the one-third and two-thirds marks. It's considered somewhat unlucky to have all of one's midterms crammed into one week.
#16
Old 05-10-2014, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by yellowjacketcoder View Post
To be fair, it's a pretty crappy thing for a professor to do to a student. And by "it", I mean have a huge majority of the grade come well after the time when a student can drop the class.
A. It wasn't a surprise, the midterm date was listed on the syllabus.
B. Students at places with earlier drop dates wouldn't think this was crappy at all.

Like I said, it was purely a student fiction. (Good grief, entire departments like English would pretty much not have midterms at all.)

Having a late drop date was quite unusual in my experience. Some places the drop date was 2 weeks in. No one would expect significant feedback by then.

I always thought of a late drop date as encouraging poor decision making by students. Too many students took advantage of the late drop date to drop classes that they were merely unhappy about, rather than for serious performance reasons. The result was taking 5+ years to graduate and a lot of extra tuition. You can tell in a short time if a prof is horrible (in the pre-post it all on the Internet days) and switch classes. (The drop and add date should be the same and early because of this.)

If you're halfway thru a class, you're in the class. Deal with it.

Last edited by ftg; 05-10-2014 at 08:45 AM.
#17
Old 05-10-2014, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Just Asking Questions View Post
A pure midterm-plus-final would be useless for learning in the tech courses. There were too many concepts, and they built on the previous material. Without feedback from tests you could get seriously lost very fast. Imagine calc or diffy-q with only two exams. No one except geniusses would pass.
Yes, this is why I'm concerned. I teach math, at the community college level. There are very few math or science majors in my classes. Most students are there because they have to get to a certain level of math for their degree or transfer requirements, then they're done with math forever. I don't make the class easy, but I don't see any reason to make it excessively hard. I give three tests during the quarter, then the final at the end, so that a) there is less to study for each exam, and b) screwing up on one exam isn't devastating to the student's grade.

In the semester system, only a midterm and a final would be brutal.
#18
Old 05-10-2014, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by GESancMan View Post
I recently applied for a faculty position at a community college. Yesterday I looked at their academic calendar, and each semester has the usual stuff listed - registration, classes begin, last day to drop, finals week, etc. But also, halfway through each semester, there is a week labeled "midterm exams."
In my limited experience, I've never heard of such a thing. I wouldn't be surprised to see a "midterm break" or a mention of "midterm grades" on a college's academic calendar, but I've never heard of college-wide "midterm exams"; and for reasons already mentioned it strikes me as an odd and impractical idea.

FWIW, when I was in college, I frequently heard my fellow students mention midterm exams, but I don't think I myself ever had one in the strict sense of a single exam halfway through the course, over the course's content up to that point.

Quote:
Does this mean this college requires that a single midterm be given, and it must be done during that week?
Obviously the way to find out is to ask someone at the college. If and when you do so, I hope you'll share the answer you get with the rest of us.
#19
Old 05-10-2014, 01:10 PM
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They've asked me for a couple of things, so I know they're looking at my resume, but they haven't offered an interview yet. If they do, I figure this question would be a good one for the "do you have any questions for us?" part.
#20
Old 05-10-2014, 01:21 PM
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Nope, no university or college I've taught at had that. I've taught classes with the midterm/final format and with multiple exams and final format, depending on the needs of the class material.

(I find it funny to hear midterm used synonymously with exam, as in "I give three midterms".)


Even if the midterm is officially required, you could probably get around it by offering weekly etc quizzes in addition to an official midterm.

Last edited by IvoryTowerDenizen; 05-10-2014 at 01:23 PM.
#21
Old 05-10-2014, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by yellowjacketcoder View Post
At my alma mater (Georgia Tech, for those not familiar with college mascots) it was an unofficial but very real thing. The college had drop day for the semester about halfway through the semester, and a policy that at least some significant coursework must be returned to the student before drop day (presumably so they could know if they were hopeless lost or doing fine before the dropped the course). The end result was that a lot of professors just scheduled a midterm exam for the week before drop day, so we had an unofficial midterm week.
Another Yellow Jacket here, and yes, it was a real thing because of Drop Day.

Now that I think about it, it's kind of strange that we had the midterm thing because back when I was at Tech, we were on the quarter system. You really only had a few weeks before the start of class to the mid-term to get your shit together. Under a semester system, you don't get that same level of frenziness since there's more time to catch-up if you're falling behind. Perhaps that why I was always stressed out of my mind in college.
#22
Old 05-10-2014, 02:20 PM
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More often than not, it's probably just the week that occurs chronologically half-way through the term, and they mark it on the calendar.
#23
Old 05-10-2014, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by GESancMan View Post
They've asked me for a couple of things, so I know they're looking at my resume, but they haven't offered an interview yet. If they do, I figure this question would be a good one for the "do you have any questions for us?" part.
Yes, I think this is a good question to ask them.

Where I went, we had a quarter system, with 2 mid terms and a final for math and technical classes. Except for DC Fundamentals. Sort of. The week before finals week, the instructor told another student and me to hang around for a couple minutes after class. After everyone else had left, he told us, "Look, you both got As on your mid terms and As on all your labs. I don't seen any point in wasting your time making you take a final or wasting my time grading your final. You've got an A on your final and for the class. I've enjoyed having you as students. Good luck."
#24
Old 05-11-2014, 11:59 AM
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Midterm exams don't really surprise me either way. Some places make it official, while others don't.

My institution does not require a midterm exam, nor the reporting of midterm grades; however, when I was an adjunct for the college in the next town over, they required that D's and F's be reported via CampusConnect at midterm. It was up to me whether to give a major exam or simply run a current average. The midterm grade did not appear on the students' transcripts or anywhere else, so I assume it was for the student development folks to be able to get in touch with struggling students and perhaps let them know about tutoring, TRIO, etc.

I'd agree that it's basically decided by course content. I had some classes where there were only 2 grades: midterm and final exams. I don't recall any of us bitching about it.
#25
Old 05-11-2014, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
Another Yellow Jacket here, and yes, it was a real thing because of Drop Day.
Here is the PDF of the GIT faculty handbook. Midterm exams are not mentioned anywhere in it. There is some picky crap about Finals (which are required except when the prof decides the course doesn't need one). Nothing about midterms. There is a required S/U for 1000/2000 courses at mid-semester, but there is nothing that says an exam is required for that.

This "real thing" nonsense is exactly what I had to deal with. Students who took local urban legends as facts.

And if you want to assert that it was a "real thing" before they switched to semester system, then I pre-request "Cite?" from the faculty handbook at the time.

Last edited by ftg; 05-11-2014 at 12:42 PM.
#26
Old 05-11-2014, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by ftg View Post
Here is the PDF of the GIT faculty handbook. Midterm exams are not mentioned anywhere in it. There is some picky crap about Finals (which are required except when the prof decides the course doesn't need one). Nothing about midterms. There is a required S/U for 1000/2000 courses at mid-semester, but there is nothing that says an exam is required for that.

This "real thing" nonsense is exactly what I had to deal with. Students who took local urban legends as facts.

And if you want to assert that it was a "real thing" before they switched to semester system, then I pre-request "Cite?" from the faculty handbook at the time.

If students acted like it was a real thing and professors acted like it was a real thing (and I assure you both of these things happened while I was at Tech), then it was a real thing. What the handbook says doesn't matter to me.

Anyone who graduated from that venerable institution knows it is notorious for telling their student body one thing but actually doing otherwise. They don't call it "getting the shaft" for nothing.
#27
Old 05-11-2014, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
If students acted like it was a real thing and professors acted like it was a real thing (and I assure you both of these things happened while I was at Tech), then it was a real thing. What the handbook says doesn't matter to me.

Anyone who graduated from that venerable institution knows it is notorious for telling their student body one thing but actually doing otherwise. They don't call it "getting the shaft" for nothing.
Thank You.

I even said in my first post that it was unofficial, so no shit it's not in the faculty handbook. Just because it wasn't in the faculty handbook doesn't mean it didn't happen.
#28
Old 05-11-2014, 11:40 PM
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Add me to the list of past students who always had a midterm week, in both Texas and Hawaii literally decades ago.
#29
Old 05-12-2014, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
If students acted like it was a real thing and professors acted like it was a real thing (and I assure you both of these things happened while I was at Tech), then it was a real thing. What the handbook says doesn't matter to me.
But what about in practice? The prof in the syllabus says no midterm, or a late midterm, or two exams instead of a midterm. Do you:

Whine and pout and stomp your foot because the prof is obviously doesn't understand that it's a "real thing",

or

Get on with your life?

The prof is in the right, guess which one is the best strategy?
#30
Old 05-12-2014, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Calatin View Post
Midterm week was a "thing" at my university. Usually held around the end of October and then right before Spring Break.
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Originally Posted by Lanzy View Post
Every college I've been to had mid-term week. I thought it was universal.
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Originally Posted by partypooper View Post
I'm on the east coast and have always had midterm week. Not all teachers have midterm exams at that point, but that's when midterm grades went out. So if you were failing a course you got notification around that time.
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Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
Add me to the list of past students who always had a midterm week, in both Texas and Hawaii literally decades ago.
I think the OP's question is not simply about a "midterm week" but about mandatory midterm exams during that week. Telling us that your college had a midterm week is only useful if you tell us what that actually involved. (Like partypooper did.)

Last edited by Thudlow Boink; 05-12-2014 at 11:49 AM.
#31
Old 05-12-2014, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
I think the OP's question is not simply about a "midterm week" but about mandatory midterm exams during that week. Telling us that your college had a midterm week is only useful if you tell us what that actually involved. (Like partypooper did.)
It involved ... midterm exams.
#32
Old 05-12-2014, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
It involved ... midterm exams.
Whoa, total shocker out of left field there! Give us some warning next time!

#33
Old 05-12-2014, 01:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ftg View Post
But what about in practice? The prof in the syllabus says no midterm, or a late midterm, or two exams instead of a midterm. Do you:

Whine and pout and stomp your foot because the prof is obviously doesn't understand that it's a "real thing",

or

Get on with your life?

The prof is in the right, guess which one is the best strategy?
I have no idea what the hell you're going on about.
#34
Old 05-15-2014, 06:02 PM
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FWIW I think it's more universal (to bend the semantics a bit) at colleges using the ten-week quarter system. If your term is only ten weeks of instruction then the midterm exam has to be sometime late in Week 5 or early Week 6. On the other hand, in my experience, even in the quarter system many professors prefer to administer two or three "ordinary" exams each covering just the most recent few weeks of class material, rather than an official midterm.

Last edited by Spectre of Pithecanthropus; 05-15-2014 at 06:04 PM.
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