‘So, what did we learn today?’ – One-minute paper, Piet Huysentruyt style

The one-minute paper is an activating teaching method that is easy to use. In essence, it is a short assignment that students can do very quickly. Despite its apparent simplicity, it can be both a powerful learning tool for students and a valuable feedback tool for lecturers. In this tip, we will discuss the original form of the one-minute paper, as well as some possible variations, with their pros and cons.

In its original form, the one-minute paper is an assignment that the lecturer gives to students at the end of class. In just a few minutes, they have to formulate a short answer to two questions:

  1. What is the most important insight/idea/etc. that you take away from today’s class?
  2. What questions do you still have?

The lecturer then collects the answers and discusses them during the next class. This format has several advantages. The first question encourages students to reflect on the class and what they have learned. The second question forces students to do some self-assessment: what do they already know and what is still unclear? Since they can remain anonymous, the threshold for asking questions is low. It is therefore a powerful learning tool for students, but it also provides feedback to the lecturer. It is a reflection of what students have already mastered and what bears repeating. And, as lecturers get information during their programme component or module, they still have time to make relevant and timely adjustments.

Variation in the task/objective

Different variants of the one-minute paper have since cropped up. There can be variation in the task, depending on what the lecturer wants to accomplish. A few examples:

  • What was the most difficult part of today’s class?
  • What is the most surprising takeaway of today’s class?
  • Write down the three most important concepts covered in this class.
  • Write a short summary of ...
  • Give an example of ...
  • Explain in your own words: ...
  • Respond to the following statement: ...

As you will notice, the first few examples are less leading and more focused on self-reflection. The other examples are more likely to guide the student towards achieving a learning objective or understanding certain learning content.

Variation in the timing

Variation is also possible in the timing of the assignment. The one-minute paper can be introduced at different moments during class, not necessarily at the end. This opens up further possibilities:

  • After the one-minute paper, organise a buzz session in which students present their answers to one another.
  • Follow up the one-minute paper with a poll to find out what the general trend in answers is.

Variation in feedback/follow-up of answers

As a lecturer, you can also decide to do different things with the students’ written answers. Here are some options:

  • You can use/comment on the answers during the next class.
  • You can respond to questions in a discussion forum or in a short instruction video.
  • You can use them as a general diagnosis to improve your lessons.
  • You can draw inspiration from the comments to formulate new exam questions or assignments.

Some aspects to take into consideration:

  • Activation requires variation. Make sure that the one-minute paper is not the only teaching method you use in your classes. It is also best to vary the timing and the specific assignments of the one-minute paper. Always make sure that the purpose of the activation is achieved by the chosen teaching method or assignment.
  • Give students enough time to carry out the assignment. The term ‘one-minute’ should not be taken too literally. The allotted time should be in line with the degree of difficulty and the extent of the assignment.
  • There is often not enough time to answer every single question students ask. Possible ways of dealing with this are: answering select questions, answering frequently asked questions, creating an FAQ forum based on your experience with the one-minute paper, including an FAQ section in the syllabus.

Want to know more?

Van Petegem, P. (Red.) (2010). Praktijkboek Activerend Hoger Onderwijs. Tielt: LannooCampus. 

  • Hoofdstuk 5: activerend werken tijdens contactmomenten

Stead, D. R. (2005). A review of the one-minute paper. Active learning in higher education, 6 (2), 118–131.