After this post, more than a few questions have been filtering through about the real difference between a minute paper and a learner evaluation survey (LEU), along with a bit of buzz about students being ‘over-surveyed’, and comments along the lines of “Isn’t a minute paper just another student survey?”. 

In short, no – minute papers and LEUs are quite distinct, with the core difference lying in their timing and the opportunities they provide educators for taking action on student learning.

There are a few similarities. Yes, both minute papers and LEUs ask students questions, and yes, both collect feedback from students about their experience. And yes, sure, both ‘survey’ students. However, they serve different pedagogical purposes.

A minute paper is a short, informal, and usually anonymous written reflection that students complete at the end of a class.

Typically, they contain a few open-ended questions that prompt students to summarise the main points of a lesson, identify what they learned, or express any questions or confusion they have. The teacher collects the papers and reviews them, using them to adjust the teaching strategies, clarify any misconceptions, or address any concerns in upcoming lessons.

As such, minute papers are formative assessment tools that help academics monitor students’ learning and progress in real-time.

One Minute paper worksheet

LEUs, on the other hand, are evaluation instruments administered at the end of a course or unit. Through a formal survey with Likert-scale ratings and open-ended responses, they’re aimed at capturing student satisfaction and experience across various elements like instruction quality, unit content, learning activities, and assessments. Unit convenors and course directors analyse this feedback from their now-past students to identify areas for improvement and inform enhancements for future iterations of a unit or course.

The key words here are past and future: LEUs are tools that help convenors and directors evaluate the overall effectiveness of a unit or course, and its impact on past students in order to shape the learning of future students. 

While both types of feedback are valuable and necessary for teaching, they address different needs and enable different types of action. Minute papers enable educators to be responsive and nimble, making changes in the moment to support current students’ learning. LEUs equip teachers and convenors to make more systemic improvements over time to benefit subsequent cohorts.

In essence, minute papers ask students “What did you learn today?”, enabling in-the-moment course correction. LEUs ask students “How was your overall learning experience?”, shaping future curriculum revision. Understanding the difference is key to leveraging each effectively.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Dr Mathew Hillier for his comments that helped clarify the differences between a minute paper and a learner evaluation survey.

Image credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Posted by Karina Luzia

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