One-Minute Paper: Assess Through Student Expression

Written by Jori Marshall
November 25, 2019 • 2 minute read

You’ve wrapped up your lecture and now you begin to pack up as students are leaving your classroom. You can’t help but feel the material you presented in the lecture was pretty extensive as images of your students’ blank stares during your lecture play back in your mind. You grab your bag and close out the classroom, meanwhile, none of the students have come up to you to ask follow up questions about your lecture.

Now you wonder, did my students understand the lecture? Did they make connections to course objectives? How did my students feel about today’s class and topic? Are my students actually learning? An effective way to answer these questions consist of a quick assessment of what your students know at the end of a lecture or class with the use of a One-Minute Paper

The one-minute paper is a classroom assessment technique created by Charles Schwartz of the University of California Berkeley in the early 1980’s and popularized by Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross in their well-known book, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. This technique is a great tool that can provide you with a snapshot of what your students are learning in your class. 

Not only do one-minute papers serve as a form of feedback but also as a form of assessment, allowing for a brief and simple mode that can help you gauge student learning and response. The one-minute paper is a formative tool that can improve both teaching and learning by monitoring student comprehension, giving you a glimpse into the strengths and weaknesses of your own teaching methods, and aid you in modifying your classroom’s learning experience. Giving students the ability to provide input into the teaching/learning process can promote healthy collaboration and a sense of meaning to a student’s learning experience. 

A survey study completed on students' perception of learning gains demonstrated that students reported gains in linking primary class ideals with other knowledge and the implementation of knowledge to separate situations as a result of one-minute papers. Other demographic factors had no significant impact, such as age or discipline, on student perception of learning gains. With the use of one minute paper in your classroom, you can also have the ability to establish dialogue and form connections with students outside of the discussion by responding to each paper via email. Although this requires more time commitment, Gale M. Lucas of Northwestern University writes that this gives you the ability to initiate student-teacher contact by personalizing your responses and can lead to in-depth conversations on a given subject matter. This lets your students know that you are available and eager to communicate and can create a motivation to learn by making students feel “safe” and heard; especially students who tend to be more introverted.  

Including the one-minute paper into your classroom pedagogical practice is quick, easy, and efficient. You can start by ending class two to three minutes early and request that students pull out a paper (or provide them with a template) to answer the following questions:

  • "What was the most important thing you learned during this class?
  • "What important question remains unanswered?"
  • Optional: “Additional Comments”.

You can then give students one to two minutes to answer these questions.

Below is a step by step guide on incorporating the one-minute paper courtesy of Angelo and Cross.

  1. Draft minute paper prompts that are relevant to your course and students and test it on a colleague of teaching assistant. 
  2. Plan to save five to ten minutes of your class time to use the one-minute paper and discuss the results with your class.
  3. During or before class, write out and display your prompt questions for the paper.
  4. Provide your students with index cards or an outline to complete the one-minute paper.
  5. Give students the option to remain anonymous unless it is important for them to write their names.
  6. Communicate to students how much time they have, the type of answers you desire (short sentences, words, or phrases), and when to expect feedback. 

Asking students to reflect on their own learning using the one-minute paper can improve teacher-student collaboration and bridge gaps in learning.

Download our how-to guide of using one-minute papers in remote/online teaching from Google Docs.

Synchronous Application Examples

To guide students to actively apply and build upon their knowledge in a synchronous session:

  • Introduce the task: Provide the questions you want students to answer in your lecture slides or on Canvas, either as a text entry submission or a discussion board.
  • Continuity across class meetings: Use one-minute papers as an activity at the beginning of class to have students reflect on previous meetings and recall any questions they have about the material.
  • Use as a knowledge check: Between ending a lecture and taking a class break, ask students to submit a quick one-minute note about what was just discussed in class.
  • Use as an exit ticket: Give students time at the end of class to submit and set a deadline (such as by the end of the day or immediately after session).

Asynchronous Application Examples

To guide students to actively apply and build upon their knowledge using asynchronous activities:

  • Create an assignment as a check-in for completion of asynchronous tasks: Students can submit their one-minute papers by a deadline to ensure they watched your asynchronous lecture or completed their homework prior to class.
  • Post to a Canvas discussion board: Ask students to post their one-minute papers onto a discussion board and reply to their classmates — they can answer each other’s questions and share with the class an interesting point others may not have considered. As the instructor, consider participating on the board with students.
  • Send your questions in a Canvas Announcement and ask students to reply before class

Preparation Tips

  • Make sure questions are posted on Canvas or are otherwise provided to your students.
  • Be intentional about what you are asking your students to address — do your questions check for understanding, and/or will they inform your future course preparations?

Facilitation Tips

  • Use a text-entry assignment on Canvas so students don’t need to figure out uploading a short document and if you want your students to be specific in their comments about understanding the concept.

Faculty Insight: One-Minute Paper Assessments

Dr. Kelly L'Engle, an associate professor in the School of Nursing & Health Professions, shares her knowledge on how she pivoted her formative assessments for remote and online teaching, including creating one-minute papers and opportunities for web discussions.

Are you or someone you know finding success with using one-minute papers? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Email to share your story.

Whether you don’t know where to start or have a particular educational technology in mind, we are here to help! To learn how to apply educational technologies to your course, request an Instructional Design consultation.

Contact Instructional Technology & Training to schedule a training session and access self-guided training materials on educational technologies supported at the University of San Francisco.



  • Classroom Assessment Technique Examples (Angelo & Cross, from Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Educators) [PDF]
  • Initiating Student-Teacher Contact Via Personalized Responses to One-Minute Papers (Lucas, 2010, College Teaching)
  • One-Minute Paper: Student Perception of Learning Gains (Anderson & Burns, 2013, College Student Journal)
  • Stay in touch, won’t you? Using the one-minute paper (Kloss, 1993, College Teaching)
  • The One-minute Paper as a Catalyst for Change in Online Pedagogy (Campbell & Lucio, 2019, Journal of Teaching in Social Work)