Monday, March 30, 2015

The Muddiest Point Exercise

During my recent visit to Las Vegas for ACC-RAC, I was able to attend numerous educational sessions. One was taught by Dr. Joseph Guagliardo, a NUHS graduate teaching at Life University. His presentation addressed ways to engage students in classroom settings while also working to assess learning outcomes. In his presentation, he made mention of a couple of quick “devices” one can do in the classroom. I found this fascinating.

One activity was called “The Muddiest Point.” This is simplicity itself.  When you complete a teaching unit, you can ask your students to anonymously report what idea or concept from that unit was most confusing (“muddy”) to them. You then collate the answers and use that to help your students better understand those areas that seemed to give them the most trouble. Using this information, you can, for example, return to the classroom the very next sessions and go over that information; you can expand upon it if you want to; or you can provide resources to your students by whatever means you feel most appropriate (i.e. via your webpage, or by a podcast or video clip, or by sending out a pdf of a paper).
A flip to this approach is use what some refer to as a “one-minute paper.” Using this tool, at the end of your class session you ask your students to write down what they feel was the most important concept from that session; you can also ask them to write down any questions they have related to that session.  These are not graded and should also be done anonymously. From this, you can judge whether your students are capturing what you believe are the important aspects of that topic area. Again, if you use this exercise, you should provide close to immediate feedback (i.e. next session) feedback.

Information on these are other methods can be found in a short paper entitled “description of several common methods for assessing expected learning outcomes,” which is located at

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