Muddiest Point is a type of classroom assessment technique (CAT) that asks students to quickly identify what they find the “muddiest”—the most confusing or least clear—part of a lecture, class, or assignment. This activity provides instructors with immediate feedback regarding student understanding.
Students often aren’t formally asked to reflect on their learning progress or understanding of course material. Asking them to identify points of confusion or questions helps them become more reflective about learning, which has the potential to promote metacognition, self-efficacy, and self-directed learning.
Not all students feel comfortable speaking up, asking questions, or sharing when they’re confused. Frequent low-stakes (or even anonymous) opportunities to ask questions or share points of confusion means that you’re more likely to get broader student participation.
Waiting to gauge student understanding until after they’ve taken an exam or completed a project can sometimes mean that you don’t discover misunderstandings until it’s too late. Inviting student questions at regular intervals means that you can quickly identify points of confusion and respond with more immediacy.
Students can submit Muddiest Point submissions using a Canvas discussion board or survey, either graded or ungraded. You can also invite student submissions using Google G Suite tools (Forms, Jamboard, or Docs) or a classroom response system, which are available outside of Canvas. Depending on your Share settings for Jamboard and Docs, you may need to provide students with instructions for logging in to access the file and clarify whether the submissions are anonymous.
Canvas surveys (set up through Quizzes) can assign completion credit to student responses immediately, leaving you with more time to review student submissions for misunderstandings or insights you may wish to discuss with the class. Anonymous submissions can also be allowed through collaborative documents and require no grading at all. Depending on the size of the class, you should plan to spend about 15 minutes per 100 student submissions. For extremely high enrollment courses, you could paste submissions into a word cloud to identify key words with high occurrences or provide students with a list of topics for them to choose from or vote on for further explanation.
Megan Mocko, QMB 6358: Statistical Analysis for Managerial Decisions I, Enrollment: 70
I like to use the muddiest point activity about halfway through a class period. I ask students to voice any questions or muddy areas using a classroom response system, so that I can easily award class participation points. I have their questions appear anonymously on the screen, so the students can see concerns from other students. I can then go through the list of questions to clear things up before moving on with the material.
Photo by UF