Teaching efficiently: the muddiest point


I mentioned earlier that I sometimes start classes with short ungraded written quizzes.

Now, I’ll tell you how I sometimes end class: a ‘Muddiest Point Evaluation.’

If I have one minute at the end of class, I ask everyone to take out a piece or shred of paper. I ask everyone to write the ‘muddiest point’ in class – the single thing that happened in the class period that made the least amount of sense or had the biggest unanswered question. If any students say that they are 100% hunky-dory with the entire lesson, then I ask them to write that fact down and turn it in.

I try to do a muddiest post especially when we’re going over conceptually abstract material, or if the lesson is more densely packed than usual.

After browsing through the muddy points that I received, I spend some of the time in the next class clarifying things, doing a new activity to clear up something that I thought was done but wasn’t. Sometimes there are just very quick questions that I can answer in five seconds. Recurring trends in the muddy points among several students might indicate that part of the lesson was unsuccessful and needs a new approach.

This is important for me to do once in a while, because sometimes I find out at the end of class that some concepts that were obvious me went entirely over the heads of my students. It’s better to learn this right away, rather than find out while grading an exam. If it’s important enough to bring up in class once, it’s important to make sure that people actually learned it. (If it’s not, then perhaps you shouldn’t mention it and reduce the amount of pointless content in your class?)

This activity, including the name “muddiest point,” is taken straight up from the Angelo & Cross Classroom Assessment Techniques book. Some of the many techniques in there work for me, and some don’t, but it’s a great browse. Some techniques in the book are far more efficient than others, but they’re all good food for the mind.

4 thoughts on “Teaching efficiently: the muddiest point

    • really similar! There’s got to be a some way of having a dialogue. The ed-talk for this is formative assessment, when you’re teaching you need to know where they are at, and where they aren’t.

  1. A slight variation of this that I borrowed from a colleague years ago and try to use with some regularity is requesting the Main & Muddy (M&M) points. The Main point [hopefully] gets students to consider the big picture of the whole class/lecture/activity and synthesize the take home message in one sentence.
    ps. Terry, nice work with the blog. Good stuff here!

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