The One-Minute Paper

A Valuable Classroom Assessment Technique for College Instructors

I realized that I have made no less than three references to this concept without explaining it.

Here is the explanation that I have owed you.

Angelo and Cross, in their book Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (see References page), describe what they call the Minute Paper.  While many authors cite their work, I honestly don’t know if they were the first to write about this assessment tool.  They may have been.  The Minute Paper has been I have adopted by thousands, make that millions, of teachers under a variety of names like One Minute Paper, One-Minute Paper, 1 Minute Paper, and Fred.  Okay, I am kidding about “Fred,” but there are a lot of free spirited, nonconformist instructors, so it may have happened.  “Students, before you leave take out a blank sheet of paper.  I want you to do a Fred.”  I wonder how many students would return for the next class.  Anyway, I prefer the term One Minute Paper (OMP), and that will be my default nomenclature.

Angelo and Cross’s Minute Paper and most derivations of it have a few things in common.  There are normally three questions, and the second question is usually something like, “What was the muddiest point?”   Other commonalities include that the students need not sign their name, and the paper should only take about a minute.  I found it a bit humorous when I read an Internet reference that suggested five minutes should be allotted.  Hum???  When should you execute an OMP?  One online answer prompted a chuckle.  The author said that there were three times when an instructor should administer an OMP – at the beginning of class, at the end of class, and during the middle of class.  Perhaps the author had once made the mistake of attempting to assign an OMF 10 minutes after the students were dismissed.  My preference is to give students an OMP at the end of class.

The OMP can be used for multiple purposes.  I encourage all my new adjuncts to use an OMP as a method for garnering honest, open feedback from their students.  Here are a couple versions that I suggest:

Version A

Question 1 – What is the most important point you learned today?

Question 2 – What didn’t you understand?

Question 3 – What could I have done differently to have helped you understand?

Version B

Question 1 – What did you like best about today’s class?

Question 2 – What did you like least about today’s class?

Question 3 – What about this class would you recommend changing?

I feel that it is important to summarize OMP responses and share them with your class.  In this way, you foster open communications and demonstrate that you appreciate and respect your students’ feedback.  That doesn’t mean that you must accommodate all their requests or comply with their suggestions.  However, you should have a good reason for not doing so.  I had a student write that I should dismiss class early each night.  At the beginning of the next class, I read that suggestion.  Then I said that if there were no questions class was dismissed.   It got a laugh.  Of course, I got serious and explained my commitment to helping them learn and to giving them all the instructional time for which they paid.  They assured me they would not be disappointed if I dismissed them early, but that was something I seldom did.

Closing Comments

I hope you use the OMP and similar techniques to assess student learning and to obtain honest, open feedback.  It is normal to feel uncomfortable about inviting criticism from your students, but it is better to get such feedback early in the term when you have time to address it.  Your students should not be surprised by their final grades; and, similarly, you should not be surprised by your student evaluations.

© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Posted April 25, 2010

About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.

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