Active Learning Ideas: The One-Minute Paper | On Effective Instruction

Active Learning Ideas: The One-Minute Paper

One Minute PaperOne Minute Paper/Free Write

The Minute Paper is a very commonly used classroom assessment technique. It really does take about a minute and, while usually used at the end of class, it can be used at the end of any topic discussion. Its major advantage is that it provides rapid feedback on whether the professor’s main idea and what the students perceived as the main idea are the same. Additionally, by asking students to add a question at the end, this assessment becomes an integrative task. Students must first organize their thinking to rank the major points and then decide upon a significant question. Sometimes, instead of asking for the main point, a professor may wish to probe for the most disturbing or most surprising item. It is thus a very adaptable tool.


These moments of writing provide a transition for students by bringing together prior learning, relevant experience and new insights as a means of moving to a new (aspect of the) topic. The writing offers students a moment to explore ideas before discussion, or to bring closure to a session by recording ideas in their minds at that moment. A minute of writing is also a useful thing when discussion takes a turn you didn’t expect – when a particularly good question comes from the group, when discussion keeps circulating around a basic idea rather than inching its way into potential applications or deepening of ideas.  This is useful with other active learning tools.



  • Give a prompt for the paper such as, “What was the most important concept of this lecture?”
  • Give students one or two minutes to think about the topic without writing anything.
  • Give students a short period of time (1 minute?) to write as much as they can.
  • Collect papers depending on the class atmosphere and the types of questions used. You may ask students to put their names on them but generally these ungraded assignments are left anonymous to encourage open responses to the questions.


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