As a formative assessment the “one-minute paper” has been well used by faculty. It can provide huge benefits for instructors to early identification of the definitions, concepts or theories that students do not understand. Cross and Angelo (1988) popularized this technique as one of a wide variety of quick “classroom assessment techniques” (CATs) —designed to provide instructors with anonymous feedback on what students are learning in class. Usually at the end of a class session or the beginning of the next session students are asked to write a one-minute paper in response to such questions as:
• What was the most important concept you learned in class today?
• What was the ‘muddiest’ or most confusing concept covered in today’s class?
• What do you still have questions about?
While this technique has been successfully used by on ground instructors for quite some time, to immediately alter course curriculum to clarify points for students, it has not commonly found its way over to the online environment. I believe the reason is that much of our online teaching is asynchronous and we have not been sure the technique would be as valuable or the process even feasible. It certainly would be difficult for the student to remain anonymous as initially designed. However, my belief is that with a slightly different work flow we can use the proven technique to great benefits for ourselves as instructors and our online students.
One common way we establish our online courses are through the use of modules or units. To integrate the “one minute paper” instructors can develop a small “one-five minute” quiz instead of a paper at the end of each section or module. You can use specific questions (fill in the blank, matching or multiple choice) to see if the students correctly understand surface level learning concepts and short answer questions to dive into deeper learning. The quiz may be set to a time limit of one to five minutes. The emphasis needs to be on immediate student reflection of learning. Try to use no more than 3-5 questions. This technique could certainly allow and should encourage students to briefly review their notes before proceeding to the “unit or section “quiz. You may also choose to place the quizzes before a new unit or multiple times within a module depending on your discipline and pedagogy.
It is important to explain to students that this is just one way for instructors to help ensure the knowledge opportunities provided to students are sufficiently meeting their learning needs. One-five minute knowledge checks on the concepts also provide a glimpse of what may appear on future course exams or required research papers and projects which could then lead to reduced student anxiety. As an incentive for the students to provide explicit and serious responses I would suggest some form of integration into your course grading schema.
In my online classes I have received very positive student feedback of the process and this has allowed me to regroup and provide multimodal learning opportunities. When we are face to face we can often look at the class and understand quickly the students that have no idea what we are trying to convey. It is even apparent at times that no students grasp the concept. Online this ability to perceive your students depth of learning is often not discovered until we issue summative assessments. Allowing formative assessment techniques to enhance and capture those “teachable moments” leads us all to greater real-time student success.
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K.P. (1993) Classroom Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, Second Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Karen R. Owens, Ph.D. / Academic Assessment Consultant / Pearson eCollege