contributed by: Joshua Holden
go back to category: Reading & Writing


Once a week, students do a “Mind Dump” activity, which involves 3-5 minutes of recall from the previous week.

Class information

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT) is a 4-year private science and engineering college. Calculus at RHIT is taught in sections of 25-30 students, 10 week quarters, 5 days/week, one class period/day. My sections are taught in a tablet room. Each day incorporates some active learning. Students are math, science, and engineering majors. They are very good at numeric and symbolic manipulation but have varying degrees of comfort with more conceptual aspects of mathematics. On the whole they tend not to like writing assignments.


Once a week, students do a “Mind Dump” activity.
  • 3-5 minutes of recall from previous week
  • Compare with classmates
  • Specifications graded (acceptable/not)
  • General feedback in class –2-3 minutes/week

Description of activity

Students were given the following prompt:

Mind dump

Front side of the page:
  • Your name
  • Without looking at your notes, what can you remember from last week?
    • general topics (i.e. section titles)
    • learning objectives, tasks
    • other?
  • List as much as you can

Back side of the page:

  • Work with someone you haven't worked with before
  • Your name and your partner's name(s)
    (_ worked with __)
  • Things your partner(s) remembered that you didn't
  • If you run out, look at your notes.


Development of this activity was funded by the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE).


This exercise was taken from Linda Nilson's Creating Self-regulated Learners, Chapter 3. Reflective thinking can deepen student learning, but students need guidance and practice to develop it. According to How Learning Works by Ambrose, et. al., “It is important to give students an opportunity to reflect on assignments. Facilitating their reflection with specific questions can help structure the process to support motivation.” and “To become self-directed learners, students must learn to assess the demands of the task, evaluate their own knowledge and skills, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed.”

Related Activities

This activity followed the daily Homework Confidence Reflections and fed into the "Exam Reflection" activity.


Immediate goals for this exercise include:
  • Self-assessment of memory
  • Peer feedback and community
  • Reinforcing reflection

Broader goals include:
  • Reflection for self-assessment and metacognition
  • Transition to college
  • Frequent reinforcement
  • Student tools for the future
  • Low workload –sustainable


Mind Dumps elicited a wide range of degrees of effort, from very superficial to very detailed.