Monday, November 2, 2015

Got a Minute? The Pros of One-Minute Papers

Looking for a quick and simple way to collect written feedback from students?  Try implementing the minute-paper!

What is a minute-paper?
Designed by Berkeley physics professor Charles Schwartz, a minute-paper is actually exactly as it sounds: a paper that you ask students to write in just a minute or two.  Instructors provide a question or two that is focused on class content that has been discussed or assigned, the students hand in their papers before leaving class for the day, and the instructor then has written feedback from students providing insight on student understanding, confusion, and active listening.  Because minute papers are quick to administer and easy to analyze, they are perfect for use in large classes.

When can I use the minute paper?
Really any time during the class period is a good time for minute papers.  You might start the class off with a question about what they thought was the most significant point in the assigned reading for class that day.  You could take a break in the middle of class for students to critically think about the content you’d been discussing.  Some instructors like to end class with minute papers to gauge overall student understanding on the lecture from that day.  Whenever you choose to implement minute papers, they all serve the same purpose—to seal ideas in students’ minds, provide you with an idea of where they are in their learning, and help them develop critical thinking skills.

What should the questions look like?
Your questions can be a large majority of things.  You might choose to keep your questions the same each time you assign a minute paper, like these:
1)      What is the most significant thing you learned today?
2)      What question is uppermost in our minds at the end of today’s session?
Or they could be more content-specific, like these:
1)      Explain the relationship you witnessed between today’s readings and the readings we discussed last week.
2)      We’ve just talked about the scientific flaws in Jurassic Park III.  Write for one minute on which you consider to be the most serious.
Or they could have some fun with them by using questions like these:
1)      You are going to make a movie of Galileo.  Cast the major characters using contemporary actors.  Provide a two or three sentence rationale for your casting choices.
2)      Dear Abby: My high school teacher said I could never use “I” in an essay.  Now I’m at UW-Eau Claire and I’m being told the most horrible things, like I can use “I” if it’s appropriate.  What should I do?  Is that true?  And if so, when is it appropriate?  Signed, “I” am confused in Eau Claire”

Are there other perks to using one-minute papers?
Yes!  If you choose to have students include their names on their papers, you can also use these as attendance trackers.  Otherwise, it’s perfectly acceptable for answers to remain completely anonymous—often an encouraging aspect for introverted students.  You can have students create tables, graphs, or other graphics in place of written answers is you prefer.  Plus, according to several studies at universities including Berkeley, Indiana, and Nebraska-Lincoln, students consistently find the use of minute papers fun and engaging.

Tip Provided By: Jessica Moser
Adapted from: Berkeley University 

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