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Strategy Bites: The muddiest point

Student looking confused

At Teaching and Learning Services, we regularly receive questions from instructors asking for ideas to enhance their teaching and improve students’ engagement in class. So, we’ve recorded 2-3 minute video bites that describe how to implement some strategies we’ve chosen based on relative ease of implementation, suitability for different class sizes, and their representation of a variety of interaction types. We’ll be sharing these strategies in the Teaching for Learning @McGill University blog over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Strategy: Muddiest point

With this strategy, students write down at the end of a class period or a module what was most confusing to them. Students can submit their muddiest points on paper or online in myCourses. You can subsequently use students’ feedback as entry points for discussion.

Why use this strategy?

As the idiom goes – it’s as clear as mud! As an educator, this is not exactly what you’re hoping for at the end of a class, module or course. You probably aim for your students to succeed. You want them to walk away with meaningful knowledge, useful tools and a sense of clarity of the subject at hand. Sometimes, however, as polished as your teaching methods may seem, not all students will “get it.”

This strategy gets students to engage in some reflection, similarly to the One Minute Paper, but students consider what they had the most difficulty understanding rather than what they learned. Instructors tend to be good at addressing obvious misconceptions that students have, but they don’t necessarily pick up on the less obvious areas that students might struggle with. Muddiest point responses might show recurring points of confusion, so this strategy can therefore also inform your teaching. Perhaps the students need more examples. Perhaps a visual demonstration would be helpful. The muddiest point strategy allows you to keep an open line of communication between you and your students.

Like many of the teaching strategies I’ve written about, the muddiest point strategy is a safe opportunity for those students who are a little more hesitant to raise their hand in class and say that they don’t understand. Furthermore, if students are told they will be asked to identify their muddiest point beforehand, they may be more likely to pay attention to their ability to understand the material. It gives them an opportunity to self-assess. Assessing what one hasn’t learned: what a valuable way to improve learning!

Would you like to know more?

“Everybody with Me?” and Other Not-so-useful Questions – A case for using the muddiest point strategy

Check out the other posts in the Strategy Bites series:

How do you get your students to reflect on the past so that they can move forward with their learning?Share your ideas!

Jasmine Parent is an M.Sc. Graduate from the program of Global and Community Nutrition in the Department of Dietetics at McGill. She is currently enrolled in the Masters of Education Technology Program at UBC and she works as an Assistant Online Course Developer at TLS. Her greatest passions include cooking and exploring healthy recipes, practicing yoga and spending time in nature.

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