The Quickwrite: A Weekly Student Reflection Exercise

Adam Sanford, Undergrad Made Easier

The quickwrite is a weekly exercise, designed to encourage students to reflect on the week's lessons and rewrite their notes while doing so. It also allows them a method of asking questions about the course concepts without having to go through the embarrassing ritual of asking in class. This method also allows the instructor to keep a finger on the pulse of the class about important concepts; if a third of the class mentions a concept as a muddy point, it allows the instructor to follow up immediately, rather than finding out on the examination.

The quickwrite consists of five questions:

1. What terms were the most important concepts of this week's lessons? Be sure to define any important terms in your own words. (2 paragraphs per lesson, 6 points to make sure they write enough content)

2. What was your muddiest point (that is, what did not make sense)? (1 paragraph for the entire week, 1 point)

3. What would you like to know more about from this lesson, and why? (1 paragraph for the entire week, 1 point)

4. How does this lesson relate to something you have already learned outside of this class? (1 paragraph for the entire week, 1 point)

5. Why do you think you were required to learn this content? (1 paragraph for the entire week, 1 point)

Put in caveats that point 2 must be about the course content (not its operations, such as how the grading system works), that point 3 cannot be answered "nothing," that point 4 cannot be answered "it doesn't," and that point 5 cannot be answered with anything relating to grades, degrees, or other achievements that do not directly relate to the course content. 

Make it clear that these disallowed questions will be an automatic fail on the assignment, so that they will take points 2, 3, 4 and 5 seriously enough to answer them. 

They may also answer point 2 with "I had no muddy points." 

Point 3 can often be the seed of a student's paper topic. 

If they do not answer the "why" question in point 3 or the "how" question in point 4, fail the question and explain why. 

This exercise makes students review their lessons in point 1, ask questions about it in a safe and private environment in point 2, explore territory not covered in class in point 3, connect their learning to outside knowledge in point 4, and do some critical analysis of the curriculum in point 5. I have had students tell me they have adapted it for use in other classes for studying and working on finding paper topics.