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Do support sheets actually support students? A content analysis of student support sheets for exams

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2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting


California State University, Los Angeles , California

Publication Date

April 4, 2019

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April 4, 2019

End Date

April 6, 2019

Conference Session

PSW Section Meeting Papers - Disregard start and end time - for online paper access only

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Pacific Southwest Section Meeting Paper Submissions

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Shant Aram Danielian University of California, Irvine

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Shant Aram Danielian is a graduate student in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, Irvine. He received his B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering and applied mathematics, respectively, from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

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Natascha Trellinger Buswell University of California, Irvine Orcid 16x16

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Natascha Trellinger Buswell is an assistant professor of teaching in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, Irvine. She earned her B.S. in aerospace engineering at Syracuse University and her Ph.D. in engineering education in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is particularly interested in teaching conceptions and methods and graduate level engineering education.

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In science and engineering courses, instructors administer multiple examinations as major assessments of students’ learning. Some instructors allow students to use a page of notes, sometimes called “cheat sheet,” “crib sheet,” or “support sheet” to aid them during the exam. The professor in this case called it a “support sheet” in order to emphasize the usefulness she sees in constructing them. Anecdotal evidence has shown that students’ performance on course material retention and performance on exams increases if the student constructs a support sheet. What exactly students record on the support sheets varies between each student. Students may feel daunted on deciding what to record on the support sheet.

The aim of this study is to determine if there exists a correlation between what is recorded on the support sheet and the students’ performance on the exam and in the course. Through this study, we want to find any commonalities on support sheet material across all students using content analysis. The results of this study may show which categories recorded correlate with the highest performance. In addition, we will investigate students’ organization of the support sheet and whether this effects performance. The data is comprised of over 200 support sheets from a final exam in an undergraduate mechanics of material course. The instructor made creating a support sheet and turning it in with the final mandatory. The final exam was cumulative, and students could record anything that they believe may aid them during the exam, limited to one page, front and back. The data was analyzed by grouping the support sheets by categories, for example, if the support sheet is comprised mostly of equations, conceptual topics, examples, or combination of the three. We also considered the density of the support sheets. Each category will be compared to the students’ performance. Moreover, we will also investigate the frequency of these categories across all support sheets.

This paper would likely interest instructors and students alike. Instructors will be able to determine if allowing students to include a support sheet is beneficial, and specifically inform students what information has been shown to be useful to include. Students will have a better idea of how to construct a support sheet that will be beneficial to their performance.

Danielian, S. A., & Buswell, N. T. (2019, April), Do support sheets actually support students? A content analysis of student support sheets for exams Paper presented at 2019 Pacific Southwest Section Meeting, California State University, Los Angeles , California. 10.18260/1-2--31824

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