Saturday, September 24, 2016

A minute of feedback to feed forward

Guest Blogger: Bill Donohue

“One thing I learned today was identifying the main idea, supporting details, and topics of a passage.” 
“Don’t enjoy Pump Handle too much because you can get suspended and miss class… Also watch after everyone.”
The two quotes come from the “minute papers” that I have asked my ENG 099 students to write at the end of a class. According to Angelo and Cross, “this versatile technique—also known as the One-Minute Paper and the Half-Sheet Response—provides a quick and extremely simple way to collect written feedback about student learning” (p. 148). I use the formative, classroom assessment technique to gauge the student learning and provide direction for what I need to adjust as we strive to meet our student learning outcomes. I usually ask student about the most important thing they learned in class and/or any questions they have.
This year, the majority of the students have been able to provide an answer that matched my main goal for that lesson. Some students have focused on aspects of the current class that reviewed the main goal from a prior lesson—a message to me to make sure I keep reviewing prior information in class as we build on those concepts and learn new ones. I can address questions during the next class period, email students directly if they provided their name, and provide supplemental information on Moodle that addresses questions and further illuminates course content.
And occasionally, I am reminded of the greater impact we have on our student’s lives. In one class period, as we discussed assignment due dates that coincided with Pump Handle, I slipped into “Dad” mode, laid out scenarios that have affected previous students, and pleaded with students to be both respectful to each other and have each other’s back. More than one student let me know that message was the most important from that day’s class.
Have you used minute papers or similar classroom assessments? How have they been useful for you or how do you think they may be useful for your courses?


  1. I like this technique, and I have used it--because it keeps me accountable to having clear goals for each class period and gives me some idea of what is going on in my students' thoughts. Thank you for the reminder.
    Marilyn Button

  2. I have used minute papers successfully to gather meaningful feedback after class. But my personal preference is using an abbreviated version of the minute paper called the muddiest point, also described by Angelo and Cross in their renowned book, "Classroom Assessment Techniques". Muddiest point refers to the concept that most confused the learner that day.

    I have asked students to jot down the answer to, “What concept that we discussed today is your muddiest point or what do you still have questions about?” I further instruct that if they have no muddiest point then they should write down what they found most interesting that day. I collect the answers as students are leaving the classroom. It is very easy for me to look through the responses and determine the concepts I need to review at the start of the next class. I wouldn’t use this formative assessment technique every day, but it is a quick way for me to take the pulse of the class.

    Another way I have used the muddiest point technique is at the start of a class after students have been given a reading assignment and before they take a readiness assessment test, or RAT, which is a fundamental component of classes taught in the team-based learning format. In this case my objective is to clear up any muddy points, or areas of confusion, prior to the ten-question RAT. In this case, students first discuss their muddiest points with their team, and then one member of the team writes any remaining questions they have on a slip of paper. So, after a brief period of peer instruction, I address any points that couldn’t be resolved by the team.
    Dianne York

    1. Dianne,
      I have used muddiest point in my workshops. I have revised my workshops based on the answers from this assessment.
      Brenda Snider

  3. Thanks. The “minute paper” is suggested by some FYE textbooks. I find it useful for students, but time-consuming if the instructor is required to read them all.

    Safro Kwame

  4. Thanks Bill for the reminder to use this technique. I will use muddiest point tomorrow as an exit ticket after we cover a particularly challenging concept in one of my classes. I wouldn't have thought of it if it wasn't for your post.