Following the model of a minute paper, Mosteller (1989) developed a muddiest point write-to-learn activity in which students write a question or a few sentences seeking clarification from the professor, perhaps on index cards. Instructors then read through the stack and figure out what topics they should revisit in the next lecture based on trends.
This peer feedback task turns muddiest point writing into a crowdsourcing activity where students can either vote up questions they too want the professor to answer or answer the question themselves. It encourages students to recognize that others too have questions (perhaps better ones than theirs), and it allows students a chance to help each other before the instructor intervenes.
This assignment sequence requires very little set-up and can be used in any discipline.
Here’s the full text of the writing task:
What is the muddiest point in the material I have just covered?
Here’s the full text of the review task:
Star rating question type
10 stars: I have this question too, and I’m clueless about how to answer it.
7 stars: I have this question, but I have a good guess, yet I’d still like clarification from the professor.
5 stars: I know the answer to this question, and I’m pretty confident in the answer.
3 stars: I know the answer to this question, and I’m 100% confident in the answer.
1 star: I can’t tell what this writer’s muddiest point is or the muddiest point is too big to be useful.
Final Comment question type
If you rated this muddiest point 7-10 stars, follow this format:
Help, Professor! The writer and I want to know _______. Specifically, ______.
If you rated this muddiest point 1-6 stars, follow this format:
I got this! The writer was confused about _______. Here’s how I think about that: ______.
The full-screen images are available:
Mosteller F (1989) The ‘muddiest point in the lecture’ as a feedback device. Journal of the Harvard Danforth Center on Teaching and Learning 3: 10–21.