Asking students to tell us about “the muddiest point”

Getting feedback on what was least clear in a course session.

A classroom assessment technique that I like a lot is “the muddiest point”. It is very simple: At the end of a course unit, you hand out small pieces of papers and ask students to write down the single most confusing point (or the three least clear points, or whatever you chose). You then collect the notes and go through them in preparation for the next class.

This technique can also be combined with classical minute papers, for example, or with asking students to write down the take-home message they are taking away from that teaching unit. It is nice though if take-home messages actually remain with the students to literally take home, rather than being collected by the instructor.

But give it a try – sometimes it is really surprising to see what students take home from a lesson: It might not be what you thought was the main message! Often they find anecdotes much more telling than all the other important things you thought you had conveyed so beautifully. And then the muddiest points are also really helpful to make sure you focus your energy on topics that students really need help with.

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