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Kicking Out the Crutch: The Impact of Formula Sheets on Student Performance and Learning

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Conference

2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Civil Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count

19

Page Numbers

25.873.1 - 25.873.19

DOI

10.18260/1-2--21630

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/21630

Download Count

92

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Paper Authors

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Marc J. Sanborn P.E. U.S. Military Academy

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Marc Sanborn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He has served the U.S. Army for the past 11 years as an officer and Army Engineer. He is a graduate of West Point (B.S. in civil engineering), Missouri Science & Technology (M.S. in engineering management) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (M.S. in civil engineering). Sanborn is a licensed Professional Engineer.

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Kathryn T. Purchase U.S. Military Academy

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Kathryn Purchase is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She has served in the U.S. Army for the last 10 years as an officer and Army Engineer. She is a graduate of West Point (B.S. in civil engineering),
Missouri Science & Technology (M.S. in engineering management), and the University of Vermont (M.S. in civil and environmental engineering). Purchase is a licensed Professional Engineer.

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Brock E. Barry P.E. U.S. Military Academy

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Brock Barry is a member of the faculty in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy. His primary teaching responsibilities are in the areas of engineering mechanics and soil mechanics. Barry holds a Ph.D. in engineering education from Purdue University. He is a licensed Professional Engineer and has 10 years of professional experience. Barry's areas of research include applied professional ethics, identity development, non-verbal communication, and education policy.

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Abstract

Kicking out the Crutch: The Impact of Formula Sheets on Student Performance and Learning In many undergraduate engineering courses the use of reference materials beyond thecourse text or study notes during examinations is common practice. The reference materials areusually prepared by the student or provided by the instructor and consist of condensed notesheets that typically provide fundamental equations and other course material that the instructorfeels is not necessary to memorize. While these reference materials have many names (cribsheets, reference data cards, formula sheets, cheat sheets, etc.) they all generally serve the samepurpose. The common perception is that these materials will shift the student’s preparation focusaway from rote memorization and allow the student to focus on course concepts and applicationof the provided information, therefore enhancing student learning. Some studies have shownthat the use of these reference materials may enhance performance on examinations, but fewhave addressed their impact on learning and retention of the information within the term. In an effort to better understand the impact of the use of reference materials onexaminations, this paper will attempt to address the research question of whether or not the useof reference cards increases performance on examinations in an introductory-level civilengineering course. Furthermore, the paper will attempt to address whether or not the use ornon-use of these reference cards has any impact on learning or short-term retention. The impacton learning and short-term retention will be evaluated using a test-retest assessment. While junior- and senior-level civil engineering courses, such as code-based courses,often demand the use of reference materials, this study focuses on an introductory statics andmechanics of materials course where students are first exposed to fundamental concepts in civilengineering. The introductory statics and mechanics of materials course has historicallyprovided students with a reference data card listing key equations and course concepts. After thelatest assessment of the course, the decision was made to no longer provide students with thereference data card. In order to determine the impact on performance and short-term retention,historical examination data from ten sections of students (n=216) that were provided a referencecard will be compared to examination data from 11 sections of students without reference cards(n=207). In addition, an ungraded concept inventory survey is compared from both populations.Student populations are normalized by their grade point average to ensure a relevant comparison. In addition to investigating the research question above, this paper will review the theorybehind the practice of using examination reference materials and discuss the motivation behindremoving the reference data card. Finally, the paper will suggest further study to investigate theimpact on longer-term retention of concepts. This study will be important to instructors thatcurrently use or are considering the use of reference materials on examinations by providing atheoretical framework for their use and an assessment of their impact on student learning.

Sanborn, M. J., & Purchase, K. T., & Barry, B. E. (2012, June), Kicking Out the Crutch: The Impact of Formula Sheets on Student Performance and Learning Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21630

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