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:
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?
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.
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