Muddiest Point

Tools for Formative Assessment

Muddiest Point

Basic Strategy

Muddiest Point is a quick monitoring technique in which students are asked to take a few minutes to write down the most difficult or confusing part of a lesson, lecture, or reading. It is simple to create and facilitate. It only takes 15 minutes to collect and review approximately 100 muddiest points. While it is easy to use, over using one technique can fatigue students and devalue the process. More information.

Why would you use it?

  1. You can quickly check for understanding. This assessment gives you a picture of misconceptions and confusion that still exists in the students’ mind.
  2. Students can increase their understanding of their own learning. This assessment provides students with a metacognitive opportunity to think about their own learning. This is especially helpful with new information and complicated procedures.

When can you use it?

Use this assessment technique any time, after students have had an opportunity for learning to progress them toward the learning target. This technique is especially helpful if students seem to be having difficulty grasping a concept or process.

How does it work?

  1. Determine what feedback you want. Do you want to ask a question that encompasses the entire class session or one self-contained segment? Do you want to ask a question related to a specific lecture, discussion, or presentation? Figure out what is of most value or where students struggle the most.
  2. Reserve a few minutes at the end of the class session. Leave enough time to ask the question, have students respond, and to collect the responses.
  3. Let students know how much time they will have to answer the question and when you will follow up with the results and provide feedback.
  4. With so many students using laptops and tablets, it is plausible students will not have extra sheets of paper. Plan on distributing slips of paper or index cards for students to write on.
  5. Collect the responses as or before students leave.
  6. Respond to the students’ feedback during the next class meeting. Share with students how responses will be used as a guide to plan the next instruction.

Other ideas

  • Follow up a traditional muddiest point exercise by asking students what could be done to help clear up the “muddy points” for them.
  • Use a two column response exercise. One side is labeled “crystal clear” and the other column is labeled “muddiest point”. This alternate version helps students reflect on their own learning as they think about what they do and do not understand.
  • Use muddiest point to review work outside of class (e.g. lab or homework assignment).

Technology based options

  • In a synchronous (live) online class, students can write on an electronic white-board, such as Big Blue Button in Canvas.
  • An online tool free, no account required tool like Padlet ( can easily and quickly capture muddy points.
  • Use a shared (open for anonymous responses) google document to collect responses.
  • Use a polling tools as a possible way to report muddiest point via a word cloud or ranked list (vote up, vote down).