Revealing student misconceptions and instructor blind spots with muddiest point formative feedback

Cindy Waters, Janet Callahan, Stephen Krause, Peggie Weeks, Barry Dupen, Mary B. Vollaro

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Of interest to all engineering disciplines, well-designed formative feedback has the potential to enhance both instructor teaching and student learning. Delivering fundamental courses year after year, can ultimately lead faculty to use stale notes or slides from past years. This approach may save time, but does not meet the shifting needs of our students who have high expectations from their instructors. One simple method to improve teaching is to employ muddiest point reflections. Muddiest point reflections involve simply asking students to anonymously reflect on what was "muddy", i.e. confusing, during class and to rank their level of confusion which not only addresses students falling behind, but also shows students a commitment to their education especially when the instructor puts direct student quotes on the screen. Initially, developing a formative feedback process takes some effort, but once established, using a formative feedback process requires little effort. The formative feedback process includes four steps: 1) acquiring data from student reflections; 2) assessing and characterizing student responses in order to diagnose the learning issues that can impede students from achieving their learning goals; 3) designing and synthesizing the type and mode of formative feedback that best addresses the learning issues; and 4) selecting a formative feedback delivery method that quickly communicates to students the information and/or resources that they can use to enhance progress toward their learning goals. This paper presents and discusses the nuts and bolts of implementing the feedback process when using end-of-class "Muddiest Point" (MP) student reflections. These are collected following a class topic and are collected for the purpose of identifying - and quickly correcting - points of confusion that students individually report (their muddiest point). In addition, we report on several instructor perceptions of their teaching that result from using "muddiest points" for the first time. These instructors deployed MP in a systematic way in fall, 2015 in several different materials science courses across the country. Finally, we share strategic examples from each instructor, of how using muddiest points in fall, 2015, caught a misconception or point of confusion in their teaching that probably would not have been otherwise known.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2016 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
StatePublished - Jun 26 2016
Event123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jun 29 2016


Other123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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