Muddiest point combines an active learning technique with a classroom assessment technique, and as such is a great formative assessment tool which you can use to determine what your students may be struggling with. Students make note at the end of a class period (or lesson or module) which topics students would like additional help with. These topics are then summarized, the summary presented to the class, and the points discussed.


Muddiest point gives students an opportunity to disclose their “struggles” in a relatively safe manner, via a note to the teacher (or a post to a forum in an online class). Once feel safe sharing which pieces of information/knowledge that they are having trouble with, students may be willing to participate more in the classroom as well.

When to use:
  • To assess level of clarity on a unit/module before beginning a new one
  • At the end of class to determine level of understanding
  • In an online class, anytime the student has a question about content

Face to face:

  1. At then end of a class/unit/module, the students are asked to jot down on slips of paper which point was the “muddiest” (least clear). Students turn in the slips to the instructor.
  2. Later that day, sort the slips into piles based on their content
  3. Make note of any unclear points for perhaps adjusting future lectures/presentations
  4. Determine which points were brought up the most often – perhaps the top 2 or 3
  5. The next day, summarize your findings for the class. For example, “Half of you thought X was the muddiest point, while 25 percent each thought Y or Z was the muddiest point. Let’s review all three, in that order.”

NOTE: Summarizing the findings is a piece that is often missed using this technique. Sharing the results with the class “closes the loop” on assessment. It connects the teacher to the students, and thus teaching to learning.


  1. The instructor creates a discussion group called “muddiest point forum”, allowing posts and replies.
  2. Students are introduced to the forum in the course orientation documents.
  3. Students may post questions that they have about course content.
  4. The instructor answers the questions in the forum. As an option, students may also be given the opportunity to reply to each other as well.