This KB document is part of a larger collection of documents on active learning activities that take place in Active Learning Classrooms (ALC). More Active Learning documents
Using Analytic Memo activity to facilitate critical thinking in Active Learning Classrooms
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Analytic Memo requires students to write a one- or two-page analysis of a problem. Students analyze an issue using discipline-specific approaches and methods and create a compelling argument for a specific audience. The recipient of the memo is usually a stakeholder in need of the student’s analysis to inform their decision-making.
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate Analytic Memo learning activity within an active learning classroom.
An Environmental Policy Analysis professor decides to find out how well her students could analyze a typical environmental problem midway through the semester. She identifies a local story about contaminated groundwater as the topic of the focus of her Analytic Memo. Students were told to write an environmental policy analysis, to address their memo to the state’s secretary of environmental affairs, and point out the major policy implications of the groundwater crisis. The students were given time in class to start their memos, working in Google Docs, and three days to complete them. After reviewing them, she assesses and responds to each memo with a five-point checklist and short comments (Modified from Angelo 178).
Students in a graduate seminar in Law Enforcement Leadership were being prepared for future leadership positions. The instructor wanted to help them learn to analyze problems and improve their writing skills. She used the Analytic Memos to get feedback on their progress. Students were given a short case involving a precinct commander faced with proposed budget cuts. Students were asked to write an analytic memo to the commander, taking into consideration the stakeholders, potential winners and losers, and political resources available. As the instructor reviewed the memos, the strengths and weaknesses of the students thinking were revealed. Nearly all had done a good job of identifying stakeholders and figuring out who stood to lose or win. Students performed poorly at identifying political resources, particularly informal ones. The quality of their writing was also a concern considering the chances of the press gaining access to these memos is high, and their writing would not withstand public scrutiny. With that general feedback provided by the instructor, students rewrote the memos, but this time as a graded assignment. The instructor saw improvement in the second round of memos (Angelo 178).
Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: a Handbook for College Teachers. Jossey-Bass, 1993. pp. 177-180.