Brian Alegant
Assoc. Prof. Music Theory
Conservatory of Music
October 7, 2000
"Muddy Point" Evaluations


This feedback is called the "muddy point."

Near the end of a class, with, say 2-4 minutes left, I pass around a sheet of paper and ask the students to list a "muddy point," that is, something they're not clear on. (For the students, muddy points are usually concepts or constructs, but they can be anything from grading policies to definitions of recent terms.) These, like all of my informal evaluations, are anonymous.) I collect the muddy points and sort through them. I then begin the next class by devoting the first 5-10 minutes on the muddiest of the muddy points. (The more students mention the same muddy point, the more time I give to it. If something is really muddy--and if it's important--I'll spend a lot of time on it; I've spend more than 1/2 a class on something that I thought was truly learned but wasn't.) Sometimes I begin the class after by passing out a handout that restates their muddy points as questions and gives answers, or provides ways in which the students can clear up their muddy points.

A variation on this idea is the "3x5 card muddy point."

I pass out a 3x5 card to each student and ask him or her to write down a muddy point. Students then pass the cards around the room so that every student gets every card. If a student reads a muddy point that resonates, they put down a check on the 3x5 card. I collect the cards, take a quick look at the number of checks for each muddy point, and proceed accordingly.