One Minute Papers provide a cheap and easy instrument for students to give teachers feedback on each lecture (or other encounter), on top of a basic attendance check. A generic form is issued to the class at the start of each lecture, asking students to identify themselves and then fill in free text responses to “What have you learned in this lecture?” and “What should I try harder to explain?”, as well as quiz questions if appropriate. The students return completed forms as they leave the room. The teacher can then reflect on this feedback and respond to it (without naming names) at the beginning of the next lecture.
Department of Computer and Information Services
Faculty of Science
Dr Conor McBride
There are several significant motivations for using one minute papers, beyond collecting attendance data. The active response to one minute papers at the start of the next lecture (replying to questions, revisiting topics which have been flagged as problematic) is a clear demonstration of engagement with the opinions and needs of the students, motivating them to be more forthcoming in subsequent one minute papers. This matters particularly in situations where students are disinclined to be vocal during a lesson. The system creates a virtuous circle of helpful feedback. Unlike end-of-term lecturer evaluation forms, the students can communicate issues in time to resolve them. Meanwhile, the lecturer gains useful information about which lecture components worked effectively and which require more thought. So, the lecturer gains a richer model of (individual and collective) student understanding and a more engaged class, and the students get assurance that they matter.
Strathclyde staff who use one minute papers often receive nominations for Teaching Excellence Awards which explicitly approve the system. Lecture by lecture, participation is measurable in ink. Classes clearly get a buzz when their remarks (whether serious or humorous) are addressed. The humorous aspect is not to be underestimated, as the effective competition to “get a joke in the show” stimulates positive engagement more broadly. Meanwhile, the direct, rapid, and often precise (“please do x again more slowly”) feedback on what worked and what did not leads to timely corrective intervention.
The one minute paper system is not without its potential for problems. Firstly, it can make an already reticent class even less likely to speak up during the encounter because they have an alternative which involves less exposure. That danger should be weighed against the benefit of people who would never speak expressing themselves at all. Moreover, the positive mood in the room set by opening with a response to the previous lecture’s one minute paper does help to encourage interaction. It is important to remind students that “please speak up” is a much more effective intervention if deployed in real time rather than postponed until the one minute papers are read. Secondly, there is the serious risk that struggling students might mistake expressing distress on a one minute paper for effective action to recover their learning, projecting their problems back on the teacher. This must be tackled directly: it’s good that students raise an alert, but they must then consider what they can do about the problem. Thirdly, processing one minute papers is extra work for teachers. With care and appropriate scanning technology, the attendance data arising from one minute papers can be collected automatically. However, with free handwritten text responses, there is no substitute for the mark one eyeball: triaging the forms between “consider responding” and “just retain” action piles can be done fairly quickly as part of the pre-lecture routine.
Students need to be incentivised to fill in one minute papers. The more engaged students will be motivated just by the teacher’s responsiveness. However, to achieve the minimal involvement of just handing something in, they need to be clear that their attendance or otherwise is being monitored and is inferred from their one minute papers. Going further, it seems that it can be valuable to offer modest credit for more active, on-topic engagement.
Some colleagues have experimented with an online version of one minute papers, to be completed as soon as is convenient after class. This approach resulted in significantly poorer participation and was rapidly abandoned. The immediacy of the paper form, issued at the start of the lecture so that students can write remarks moment-to-moment, is crucial to the effectiveness of the method.
We have typically used this method in classes of about 100: the initial triage takes five minutes. For larger classes, this would obviously grow, but the task can at least be distributed to helpers. The other scalability threat is that if too much material is generated, the in-class response can consume too much of the lecture slot. One way to counteract that problem is to address low priority issues outside of class, e.g. on VLE forums. The scalability problems of recording attendance information arising from one minute papers can be addressed effectively with scanning technology, as long as students can make some mechanically detectable individuating mark on the form: in CIS, we have exactly such a technology.
There is nothing to prevent this system being adopted in lectures for other disciplines. All you need is a photocopier. It is worth considering whether one minute papers might be adapted to accompany other forms of encounter (homework assignments, tutorials, etc) to encourage greater reflection.
More detailed explanation can be found here: http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/~steve/resources/tactics/minute.html
A typical one minute paper from CS106 is attached below. The peculiar banner at the top of the page is designed to be read by optical character recognition software after the form has been scanned. The leftmost column of words identifies the class, the teacher and the event. Meanwhile, students identify themselves by deleting a three letter word from each of the three lines of text at the top: their three word code is issued in the first lecture. The forms are scanned in bulk, individuated, then stored in a database. The small proportion of forms whose owners are not recognized by machine are flagged up and assigned owners interactively.