CAT 7 : The Muddiest Point

S., Elloit, Informal Assessment Technique: The Muddiest point.

We are constantly looking for means to assess students learning and our teaching approaches. “Recent research on the evaluation of teaching and learning suggests that students are valid and reliable sources of information on the effects of teaching or its impact on their learning (Cross, 1988)” (Angelo & Cross, 1993, p. 106). The classroom assessment techniques (CATs) developed by Angelo and Cross collects feedback to focused questions related to the students’ learning (1993). The majority of these techniques are simple, non-graded, and anonymous, they differ than tests that they aim students’ learning enhancement rather than assigning grades. Using a CAT is a three step process, the first is planning in which the educator decide what they want to know about and choose which CAT is appropriate for the task. The second is implementation, and here the educator explains to students the purpose of the informal assessment and conduct it in class. And last is responding, where educator should review the results and act accordingly (Angelo & Cross, 1993).

In this post, I will reflect on a video about the muddiest point strategy presented by Shauna Elliot whom was a previous colleague. The muddiest point is one of the most widely used classroom assessment technique (Angelo & Cross, 1993), it asks students to quickly state the most confusing or least clear point of instruction at the end of lecture, closing of a discussion, or the end of a reading assignment, etc.,. Though, the technique requires low investment of time and effort, yet it proved to be remarkably efficient (Angelo & Cross, 1993). The strategy was covered in depth in the video, it included aspects such as the best context for the strategy, pros and cons of utilizing it, best practices, and the reliability and validity of the information gathered using the muddiest point technique.

Few important points in the video resonated well for me, first, the muddiest point provides students with a metacognition opportunity to think about their own learning, before they jot down their responses, they have to rate their own understanding across several topics and then ponder why one particular topic should be selected as the least understood (Angelo & Cross, 1993). Second, the technique can be quite helpful to assess both introverted and shy students that aren’t likely to participate in classroom discussions or pose questions. Third, it helps educators to foster good rapport with learners especially as they respond to learners’ concerns and problems. Fourth, it can help reduce the gap between what we as educators think students learnt and what they actually learnt (Samuel, 2014). Last, the video provides an important hint that states that the strategy must be used with discretion, the presenter warns that overusing the strategy can be discouraging for both educators and students i.e. because of the tendency of negativity (Elliot, n.d.), I found an implementation of the muddiest point CAT that I believe can resolve this issue. It suggested using two column responses, one side labeled “crystal clear” and other is “muddiest point” and hence the students will be stating the points they most and least understood (MGH Institute of Health and Profession, n.d.).

As an online educator, I went beyond the information in the video to find out if the strategy can be successfully incorporated in an online environment, I found it is possible in many forms, for example, Mangieri recommended creating a back channeling such Wallwisher or a wiki to allow students post their muddiest points. This online variation has an advantage over the classic version explained in the video where the students can cooperate with each other to resolve the muddiest points without even the educators’ interventions (2011, June 20th).

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