Minute Paper

Meg Streepey
Earlham College

What learning is this evaluation activity designed to assess?

I adapted the Minute Paper activity from Angelo and Cross (1993) "Classroom Assessment Techniques" in order to determine the extent to which students in an introductory, non-majors geology course were comprehending (beyond basic recall of factual information) important concepts from individual lectures. In addition, I was able to observe common "sticking" points among students, and I was able to assess places in which my lecture and explanations were unintentionally vague or difficult to understand.

What is the nature of the teaching/learning situation for which your evaluation has been designed?

I chose this activity specifically for a large introductory class. My other courses have very small (fewer than 10 students) enrollments and are upper-level majors courses, so I have a good idea of both who is attending lecture and where the students are struggling to comprehend important points. In the large lecture with non-majors, most students sit passively through the lecture (if they attend at all) so without some sort of individual assessment it is very difficult to determine whether or not the students are learning important concepts.

What advice would you give others using this evaluation?

This is a terrific assessment activity for lower-level students (it is probably an excellent assessment tool for upper-level students too). They must think, in more sophisticated ways than just recall, about what they just learned and must think about what they learned during the last class period. However, it turned out to be important to discuss some of the questions with the class as a whole and to include one or two of the questions (at least conceptually if not the exact question) on the exam. Students took the activity much more seriously after questions from the minute papers began appearing on their exams.

Are there particular things about this evaluation that you would like to discuss with the workshop participants? Particular aspects on which you would like feedback?

I really like using this assessment technique, because I can address misconceptions on the individual level before they get to a high-stakes exam question. However, this is logistically difficult and a major time investment. I first implemented this in a class of around sixty students. I did some activity like this during almost every class period and then felt compelled to write feedback on every paper. However, it took way too much time to hand them all out individually (though I tried it once or twice) and if I left the pile of papers outside my office, most students never came by to pick them up and look at their feedback. So I am looking for ways to make this process more efficient. I have thought about doing these kinds of exercises electronically, but many of the questions I ask involve some sort of sketching or diagramming, making electronic submission and feedback difficult.

Evaluation Materials