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Weekly Tip: Muddiest Point and Metacognitive Surveys

The muddiest point survey is a formative assessment technique that provides a timely view into the progress of your students’ understanding and misunderstandings. These surveys require little effort, which allows you to do them in an ongoing way. As a result, you have more opportunities to diagnose challenges and respond.

How to do it

  • Create a Survey in Blackboard, and simply ask, “What was the muddiest point in what was covered (reading, lecture, lesson, problem or process)?” (A low-tech variation, depending on your needs, is to ask students to write a quick response on a piece of paper before, during, or after a lesson.)
  • Explain the purpose of the activity to students and that their answers will be anonymous.
  • Review the results before the next class, determine what they tell you about your students’ learning, and decide what changes to make, if any.
  • It is very important to respond to the students’ feedback during the next class meeting or as soon as possible afterward. When you respond, be sure to let your students know what you learned and how you will use this information. For example, you could respond with a tutorial, a focused activity, or a link to a resource.

Why do it?

  • You get just-in-time feedback, and can respond, to student learning with less work and less delay than traditional assignments (tests, papers, etc.).
  • Because these are anonymous, students are less inhibited to ask frank questions and provide honest feedback.
  • It provides ongoing evidence that you care and are responsive to student needs.
  • You get a quick read on students’ immediate misconceptions instead of waiting for high-stakes assessments.
  • You help students be more reflective and better monitors of their own learning.
  • It helps you monitor your teaching as an ongoing process of inquiry, experimentation, research and reflection.

In addition to muddiest point surveys, consider metacognitive survey questions.

In metacognitive surveys, ask students to:

  • List and rank their learning goals and identify whether or not they match the course goals.
  • Keep records of the steps they take in carrying out the assignment and to comment on the success of their approaches and how they may change.
  • List their study strategies for the last exam, how successful they were and what they might change.
  • Identify the most important thing they learned during the class, reading, activity, etcetera, and if any important questions were unanswered.

­More examples of classroom assessment techniques

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing aoi.li@wsu.edu.

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact aoi.li@wsu.edu or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.