Natalie Farny’s Use of Daily Minute Papers to Engage Students and Quickly Gauge Understanding

Filed in engaging students in class by on January 18, 2016 0 Comments

N.Farny-resized-wbI use a twist on the typical think-pair-share exercise coupled with the minute paper exercise in my 3000-level Human Anatomy and Physiology course (~60-80 students). At the start of each lecture, I put up a short open response question that relates to the material from the previous class and ask the students to spend 1-2 minutes writing a response to the question. After that time, the students will switch papers with another student within a pair or small group (not more than 4 students), share responses, and make comments on each other’s work. I then ask for student volunteers to share a collective response from their pair or small group with the class. The entire exercise takes about 5-7 minutes, mostly depending upon the complexity of the question. I collect the pages at the end of class and leaf through them to get a sense of how well the students are understanding the material, but since they have already discussed with a neighbor and received feedback from that person and the class discussion, I find that I do not need to spend time giving written feedback. I do not grade the students on the correct response but award points toward their participation grade for completing the exercise.

I find that this exercise has numerous benefits, including:

  • It brings everyone back on topic and serves as a convenient way of briefly reviewing important points from the last class
  • Students know that the minute paper is coming each day, which encourages them to review the material as they go along as opposed to cramming closer to an exam
  • The low-stakes pressure of knowing that the response will be peer reviewed is motivational, and I do see a significant effort from the students in crafting their responses
  • Students receive feedback regularly about their own understanding
  • Students have the opportunity to think critically about what is good (or not so good) about another student’s response, and often get the benefit of seeing a different point of view on a topic as they review their peer’s work
  • I am able to easily gauge student understanding by briefly reviewing the minute papers after class, and can address misconceptions before we have moved on too far from that content
  • The minute papers are similar to the short answer questions I ask on the exam, and students appreciate the opportunity to practice for the exam questions
  • It improves class attendance and (since its first thing in the class) encourages people to arrive on time and be prepared to work right away



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