A minute paper is a short, written response to a question that allows students an opportunity to reflect on their learning (write-to-learn activity) while also providing the instructor with feedback (formative assessment) on student understanding of the materials covered during the lecture. As the name suggests, a minute paper can be implemented quickly in class with students writing for one or two minutes after the prompt is given.

Although normally administered at the end of class (Stead 2005), a minute paper can be done in the middle of class especially when switching topics. Minute papers differ from the muddiest points activity in it allows students to focus less on what they don’t understand and more on what they have learned during the lecture (less negative emphasis; Campbell et al. 2019). Alternating between muddiest points, minute papers, and other reflection activities can allow students opportunities to reflect on their learning while also providing variety in their reflective feedback.

The question prompt for minute papers is a critical aspect of the activity. Traditionally, the two questions used in a minute paper are “What was the most important topic in today’s class?” and “What questions do you still have on this topic?” (Chiou et al. 2014, Campbell et al. 2019). But questions that are more specific to the content (“Explain how X occurs under normal situations.” or “Summarize the main steps in process Y.”) can also be used to add variety and challenge to increase engagement in this activity (Stead 2005, Lightbody and Nicholl 2013). If you ask students more specific content questions, you will need to provide more time for them to complete the activity (approximately five minutes). If you use prompts that ask students for their questions on the content, it is essential to develop a method for responding to the most asked questions (Lightbody and Nicholl 2013). Questions could be addressed at the next lecture class or by creating short videos (or similar materials) that specifically address the common questions.

Research on the use of minute papers has shown increased student learning (Stead 2005, Chiou et al. 2014) and reduced anxiety (Chiou et al. 2014). Students also indicated that minute papers were beneficial to their learning (Stead 2004, Chiou et al. 2014), but advocated for weekly use over daily as the activity becomes repetitive and less effective if used too often in class (Stead 2005). The use of minute papers in large enrollment courses can benefit students not only in their learning, but also provide significant lecturer/student interactions that aid in student belonging (Stead 2005). Minute papers have also been shown to be highly effective in online courses where students answer the prompt as an assignment submitted to the LMS (e.g., Canvas; Campbell et al. 2019).

Campbell, M., E. M. Abel, and R. Lucio (2019) The one-minute paper as a catalyst for change in online pedagogy. Journal of Teaching in Social Work 39:519-533.

Chiou, C., Y. Wang, L. Lee (2014) Reducing statistical anxiety and enhancing statistics learning achievement: effectiveness of a one-minute strategy. Psychology Reports: 115:297-310.

Lightbody, G., and P. Nicholl (2013) Extending the concept of the one minute paper model. The Higher Education Academy.

Stead, D. R. 2005. A review of the one-minute paper. Active Learning in Higher Education 6:118-131.

This page was authored by Michele Larson and last updated May 24, 2022


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