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Instructor and Student Perceptions of the Authorized, Self-prepared Reference Sheet for Examinations

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engineering Economy Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Economy

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Paper Authors


Raymond L. Smith III East Carolina University

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Dr. Smith is an assistant professor of engineering in the College of Engineering and Technology at East Carolina University. Dr. Smith’s research focuses on developing and applying operations research and applied statistics methods to provide model-based, implementable solutions for complex systems. His work encompasses simulation modeling and optimization methodologies with applications to healthcare, public health, supply chain, information systems, logistics, sustainability, and other industrial and service systems. Dr. Smith earned his PhD in industrial and systems engineering from North Carolina State University.

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Henry D. Lester University of South Alabama Orcid 16x16

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Henry D. Lester is an Assistant Professor of Systems Engineering at the University of South Alabama. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Lester retired from the U.S. Army where he had the opportunity to serve in a variety of technical, operational, and leadership positions. He holds a Ph.D. & M.S. in Civil Engineering (University of Alabama), M.S. in Applied Statistics (University of Alabama), M.S. in Operations Management (University of Arkansas), and a B.S. in Aeronautics (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University). He has developed and/or taught courses in systems engineering, systems modeling & simulation, integration, testing, & evaluation, production systems engineering, construction engineering, engineering economics, engineering probability & statistics, project engineering, engineering optimization, risk & failure analysis, reliability engineering, and engineering research methods. His current research interest includes modeling, analysis, and optimization of complex operational systems and infrastructures susceptible to disruptions.

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Instructors have long questioned whether the allowance of reference materials under test conditions is a benefit or hinderance in student knowledge acquisition and test performance. Introductory courses of a quantitative nature which are heavily equation oriented, such as engineering economy, often permit the use a reference during examination. Under exam conditions, instructors frequently stipulate that students may use (1) the text book, to encourage use of long-term reference; (2) the class notes, to encourage good note taking and class attendance; (3) a notecard, to encourage focused study and prioritization of important topics; (4) an instructor-prepared formula reference sheet; or (5) a student-prepared “cheat-sheet”, to encourage thorough review and organization of the material. Despite these varied approaches, little investigation has been made to evaluate the benefits. This paper critically examines from an instructor and student perspective the benefits and disbenefits of allowing the use of a “cheat sheet” for examination. Student-prepared “cheat-sheets” are evaluated and scored according to five dimensions. This data is then paired with results from an end of semester survey regarding student perceptions of the reference benefit in outcome. Results suggest that while most students welcome the allowance of a “cheat sheet”, some students will not invest the time in “cheat sheet” preparation for various reasons. Several factors are discussed, and outcomes are reported.

Smith, R. L., & Lester, H. D. (2019, June), Instructor and Student Perceptions of the Authorized, Self-prepared Reference Sheet for Examinations Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32977

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