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Cornell University

One-Minute Papers

A one-minute paper is an active-learning exercise that can surface new questions you don’t know students have!

Getting Started

Try a one-minute paper instead of asking “any questions?” at a major stopping point.​

  1. When you reach the end of a topic, lecture, or unit, ​ask students to spend one minute writing a brief response to what they just learned.
  2. Collect the “papers” for review.
  3. Read and respond to the papers.

The prompt for the papers could be:

  • What are you most confused about?
  • What is the main question you have now?
  • What is the most important thing you learned?
  • What do you want the instructor to know right now?

Why It’s Effective

  • Students will reflect on what they’ve learned, helping them and you know what to concentrate on next.
  • You will get a better picture of what the class is thinking. By sampling everyone, you get more data than just letting one or two students ask a question. Then you have the opportunity to address any common confusions. You might even decide to teach a topic differently next time as a result.
  • It builds trust and demonstrates that you care about what all students are learning, thus promoting a sense of belonging.


  • You can respond in many ways, such as email, a class discussion forum, notes posted on a course website, lecture time in the next class, or delegating to TAs in discussion section.
  • Your TAs can also do this at the end of each discussion section for their own development.
  • To collect the responses, you could pass out index cards for students to write on, or print out your own customized prompts. Here are some Word documents you can use as templates: 1-up, 4-up.
  • To go paperless, you could use anonymous comments in an online discussion forum, a Canvas survey, or even a Google doc if the class size is amenable.

Online Adaptations

  • One-minute papers combine well with remote or asynchronous teaching. They afford students the opportunity to bring up questions that might not otherwise get raised when watching online lectures or participating in Zoom calls.
  • To collect responses, you can use any of the paperless options above.