Let's talk cheat sheets

Discussion in 'General Education' started by 2ndTimeAround, May 7, 2014.

  1. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    May 7, 2014

    sanctioned ones, that is.

    I'm debating on allowing my non-honors students bring in a 3x5 index card to use as a cheat sheet on their next test. The test is very vocab heavy, with many terms that can be confused with others.

    I've never allowed a cheat sheet before so I'd love to hear some opinions.

    I am firm believer in that students do learn more than they'd expect while trying to cram info onto a small card.

    But I'm also a firm believer in that grades should indicate what a student KNOWS - not what he can copy onto a card from his notes.

    Pros:
    *students are sorta forced into going through their notes to determine what is most important and hardest to memorize
    *might be a way to get students that have given up to put some effort into preparing for a test
    *should help out students' grades
    *good CYA for me

    Cons:
    *am I really testing them on what they've learned?
    *logisitics - what about the kid that scribbles on two sides instead of one? The kid that left his at home? The kid that has really sloppy handwriting (I'm going to insist that students handwrite, no printing)?
    *potential cheating - having someone else make up a card for you (guess I could do a handwriting check)
    *why would I give them a crutch on my tests that they couldn't use on the state exam?
    *what to do about the kids that skip the day before the test (there will be about four out, I'm sure) and don't get notification about the index card? (I'm hesitant to send out an email to parents because many will do the index card for them - but I could announce the option two days before the test)
    *many students will rely too much on the card and not study enough on their own.

    Ideas????
     
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  3. microbe

    microbe Comrade

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    Arguably you can ask more questions that require critical thinking and less rote memorization questions. I think allowing a cheat sheet should really depend on how the test is structured.
     
  4. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    My AP physics teacher let us bring in a cheat sheet with vocab and formulas. She checked them the day before and signed across it with a pale hi lighter and collected them. She passed them out and collected them on the day of the test.
     
  5. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I definitely agree with this.

    I've allowed cheat sheets before. I was very particular about them though. They couldn't have any vocabulary words with definitions on them. They could only write on one side, no printing either. I collected them at the start of the exam. If they tried to put something on that wasn't allowed, I tore it up and threw it out. They only got to use them for 20 minutes total. Then I collected them again.

    It worked well for me.
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I am looking forward to the responses in this thread. I'm also considering allowing cheat sheets on this year's final exams.

    I was out for the whole 3rd quarter. The substitute didn't know my content, so my students didn't really learn anything that quarter. I've been frantically trying to get my students back up to speed, but obviously it has been difficult for everyone. The material that I need my students to learn is more of the low-level stuff (memorization, straightforward application of paradigms and patterns, etc.). There is so much to memorize in my class that it just doesn't feel right to expect my students to have it all memorized in the weeks before the exam, you know? I've been thinking that allowing the use of cheat sheets might level the playing field a little bit. I don't mind if they have to look up some of the material that I would otherwise expect that they would have memorized. I'm more interested in them knowing how to use those memorized facts and paradigms. Simply having access to the paradigms won't mean that the students know how to apply them. More than anything, I want to be fair, and I recognize that they've been dealt a bad hand through no fault of their own.

    What I've been thinking of doing is having students create their cheat sheets in class on the day before final exams. This day is always a study day anyway, so it seems appropriate. I will set some guidelines like that the cards must be handwritten by the student him- or herself and that the cards must be turned in at the end of the period to me for approval. I will mark/sign/sticker the cards in some way to indicate that the card is acceptable for use on the final. On the day of the final, I'll return the cards to students to use during their exams. Students will have to return the cards to me after their exams (to ensure that cards aren't shared).

    I am still debating a few things:
    Should I limit the kind of information allowed on the card? If so, what sorts of information should be prohibited?
    Should I allow only one side of the card to be used?

    Please feel free to share more advice and suggestions.
     
  7. Bunnie

    Bunnie Devotee

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    No general advice but I have a very faint memory of a teacher letting us to create a cheat sheet and as long as the info fit on the paper, both sides, it was allowed. I don't remember the subject but honestly rewriting things helps with memory at least for me. I would do it.
     
  8. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    I'm elementary, so I might be well out of my league. When I teach, I make anchor charts with vocab definitions and examples. The students copy them in their journals, but I don't take the charts down on test day (except for state tests). Those charts could be considered cheat sheets in a way. I agree that how you test should dictate what's on the card. For example, I might have a chart showing a fraction division model, but the test will have a different problem. The student will use the same strategy. If it's straight vocab I'd probably just tell the, 20 of these 25 words are on the test.
     
  9. JoanPD

    JoanPD Rookie

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    What class do you teach? As both a high school and college student I've had several classes over the years that have allowed some sort of reference sheet, and other classes that haven't.

    In the classes that do allow them, I've had anything from a 3x5 index card, one size, to both sides of a sheet of paper. I've also had classes where I can put anything on it I want, to classes were only certain information was allowed.

    I've also had teachers that collect them to see what was on them and that they were our own, to teachers who don't care if all the students have identical sheets

    I find that when allowed to make up a reference sheet, I find myself going over the material more trying to decided what is the most important information that I need to know for the exam.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2014
  10. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    For classes that use formulas, I could see a cheat sheet and I remember being allowed some in high school.

    I wouldn't (and couldn't anyway with my school's policies) allow them in my history classes.
     
  11. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    I let my honors kids use all their notes on their history tests. The questions are all higher-level, open-ended questions so having the basic notes doesn't do them much of anything. If I were doing a test on trivia then I suppose it might be different.
     
  12. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I allow cheat sheets, but my kids are middle school so it might be different. In addition, my questions generally use the information that they might have on their cheat sheets simply as a primer for a question that is more critical thinking based.

    One of the major reasons I allow them is that it kind of puts more responsibility on the student to prepare for the test. If they fail, and I ask them if they made a cheat sheet, and they didn't, well there's no one to blame but themselves.

    At the very least if they do it, it forces them to review for the test at least once, which is something that is very difficult to get middle school students to do.
     
  13. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    My daughter was able to create them for some of her high school classes. I vividly remember the almost microscopic printing she used trying to get as much info on the page as possible!
     
  14. teach1

    teach1 Companion

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    I teach younger kids, but in high school and college I was allowed to use cheat sheets on numerous occasions. From what I remember, math and science courses mostly allowed formulas. In order to do well on the test you would need to know how to apply the formulas.

    I also remember using history cheat sheets as well. Only very specific info was allowed on the card, and unless you knew the content, there was no way of passing that test, card or no card!
     
  15. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    I like the term "reference sheet"! Sounds more honorable than "cheat". My physics students are allowed to use a 3x5 index card for all formulas as well as a reference sheet I provided at the beginning of the year for metric conversions.

    Students have been grouped in teams all year to work on collaboration skills (inquiry labs..introductory concept quiz discussions). At midterm and finals they are instructed to mark on their answer sheet those items they are most unsure of. The last 25 minutes of exam time are dedicated to collaborative team meetings to discuss specific questions that they have. They are not required to follow advice from their team. I walk around during this time and evaluate group discussions--students know in advance their meeting will end if they are only comparing answers (happened only once). The amount of passionate discussion I get to observe is incredible.
     
  16. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    For my math classes, I allow open notes. I do this to encourage the weaker students to take notes (which is a real struggle in my school). Plus, I didn't enjoy memorizing formulas as a student. I am interested in application and problem solving. A "cheat sheet" would only help the students who know how to apply the formulas correctly - a student who has not mastered the material is not going to be helped by a 'cheat sheet" or even open notes. That's my $.02.
     
  17. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I had a few teachers in high school allow one-page cheat sheets if they were handwritten. I was always too lazy to actually make one for myself, so I usually just wrote a note about how awesome I was. I always ended up with the highest grade in my class, so my strategy seemed to work.
     
  18. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I see nothing wrong with using notes for a test. Like others said, asking students to think critically about material would show they actually understand the material. In my opinion, knowing how to use the information you have is more important than memorizing it. The internet, a personally written note sheet, or a textbook is nearly always available for someone who can't remember a formula or definition in any other situation.
     
  19. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Have we become a society where we don't have to know any facts or vocabulary because it will be available provided we remember how to look it up?

    Part of memorizing some information to be used later for critical thinking is to also build memory skills and learning skills which are important in many aspects of life.

    Learning and showing what one knows is a complete package. I understand some accommodations for students who have a documented disability and may not be able to recall or memorize certain information but can process the concept, but most people should be able to learn formulas, vocabulary, and facts in order to use them when they demonstrate critical thinking skills. The more we remove students from having a wealth of information committed to memory for recall when it is needed the easier it will be for them to critically think about ideas and show what they know.

    The idea that some rarely used formula will be available in a text or on the internet in the future being applied to all formulas to me is a ridiculous concept.
     
  20. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I can't say I remember a single formula I was ever forced to memorize. I've never looked them up either as I've never needed them.

    If my students need to write down the order of people in Brave New World, I don't care. What I do care is they understand what statement Huxley was making about society and how it applies today.

    Some things are worth memorizing like the years of WWII and the names of the world leaders at the time. I think that should be common knowledge. I don't think students should need to memorize the dates for every battle that happened in WWII.

    Foreign languages should have the most memorization in my opinion, but you need to be able to use it.
     
  21. otterpop

    otterpop Phenom

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    I could look up how to build a house, but wouldn't be able to complete the task efficiently or with fine quality because I wouldn't have a clue what I was doing.

    If a person was able to use notes and complete the task in the same amount of time and with the same quality as someone who didn't need notes, I'd have no issue with that.

    It seems silly to me to penalize someone for not being able to memorize effectively when they understand the content well. Everyone learns differently. And with the same house analogy, I'd rather someone used notes to build the house 100% correctly, than rely on memory and complete it with 90% accuracy.

    Time can always be limited if a teacher wants to make sure students aren't trying to learn content as they take the test.

    Just my $.02.
     
  22. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    But sometimes you simply cannot understand the content without first memorizing a significant amount of the content. This is especially true when using another language. You can't effectively communicate in the language if you've got your head buried in a dictionary because you don't know any of the vocabulary. Furthermore, many languages are a lot more than just vocabulary--I'm speaking specifically of inflected languages where the words change depending on how they are used in a sentence.

    My students are learning the relative pronoun right now (who, which, that). In my language there are 30 different versions of that word, and if you don't know how to use each one correctly, it's going to sound like gibberish. And that's just one word! There are over a hundred different versions of most verbs in my language, and dozens of versions of each noun and adjective. It gets complicated, and students who rely on their dictionaries and notes get lost quickly. It's impossible to get anything worthwhile out of them because they just cannot produce meaningful language without a basic understanding (and strong memorization) of those major grammatical points. What they end up producing is just a string of words, pretty much like this: He the girl I carry impediment fart culinary banana slowly an is.

    My point is that notes are wonderful and useful in some situations and content areas, but they can be really ineffective in others. That's why I haven't allowed them to be used on final exams before and why I have some hesitation now.
     
  23. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    The funny thing about formulas is that people need to memorize them when they really don't understand the concept and what makes the formula work. Having students have access to them at test time gives a very false picture of true understanding. An easy example is the distance formula, d = rt. There really is no reason to have to have access to this formula if you truly understand how the information relates to one another. Having this formula available for students whether provided by the teacher or allowing a student to have a reference sheet actually changes the question of how long it took to get somewhere given the distance and how fast the person was traveling from a thinking question to a plug-and-chug question with some basic algebraic steps in the mix.

    So, given a question where time and distance is provided but no formula, the student has to understand the concept.

    I agree some formulas are much more complex and the understanding is much harder, but boy it really looks like students know the concepts when we provide the formulas for them. Just one more way to give the appearance of learning and good teaching.
     
  24. CindyBlue

    CindyBlue Cohort

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    I wrestled with this for years, and now will let some classes have a 3X5 card with notes for the final only. The students are not allowed to use a note card throughout the year on the quizzes and tests, so they need to know the formulas and know how to derive them for those tests - but the final exam is cumulative. Some formulas we haven't used since the beginning of the semester (I try to incorporate review topics as I go through the semester, but it's not always possible to get to all of them.) For the final, as long as they know how to use the formulas when they have them, I'm good...they have already demonstrated that they know what the formulas are, earlier in the semester. It has worked out well over the years. I do collect the note cards with the final, and if there is anything on there that "I might consider cheating" (and we have that discussion in depth before the final!) they earn a 0 on the final (I've only had to do that once, and was backed by the administration, thank goodness!)
     
  25. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Call it whatever you want but these formulas are regularly provided on standardized tests as well.

    And yes, we live in a society where memorizing things is no longer necessary. We also live in a society where slates are no longer useful, the abacus is a waste of time and we don't teach cursive. Things change.

    If there are things that having notes won't help with (which I completely accept that there are) then there is no harm in those notes being available.
     
  26. Glühwürmchen

    Glühwürmchen Rookie

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    I'm taking Latin I, and my teacher talks a lot about the bricks vs. knowing how to build a house analogy. He doesn't require students to memorize the declensions until Latin II. Instead we refer to giant posters in his room. I think it's really great, and I feel myself acquiring the forms through the repeated reference.

    However, I agree that it depends on the content.
     
  27. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    You don't have to learn the case endings? Wow! That's crazy! I've never heard of any Latin teacher allowing students to get away with that. I hope you know how lucky you are! :haha:
     
  28. Glühwürmchen

    Glühwürmchen Rookie

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    Yes! He's a great guy :lol:
     
  29. LisaLisa

    LisaLisa Companion

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    When I taught Gen Ed, I gave open notes tests from time to time. They required higher level thinking skills. I always referred to Costa's Levels of Questioning:.

    http://schools.birdvilleschools.net/Page/2167


    Memorizing information is an important skill. Using what you know is just as important. Depending on what your test will look like then go ahead with open notes. Just consider Costa's charts.
     
  30. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I usually don't allow cheat sheets, but I'll often give students the formulas on the day of the test. I don't want my students to worry about memorizing the formulas, but I want them to focus on understanding them and applying them.
     
  31. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    If understanding how to use the formula is all that is desired, providing a formula and problems can produce that result. If the desired result is to show understanding as to why the formula works for the concept at hand, providing the formula or sheer memorization does not do so either. However, not providing the formula gives more of a chance to use understanding to produce the formula as in the example of a student understanding how distance, rate, and time relate to one another, they never have to really memorize the formula at all because they know the relationship.

    I guess the overall issue in this topic is what level of understanding are we expecting to show with our assessments. Do we ever want students to be able to discuss or show knowledge of the topic in environments where they will not have their notes available to them or are we looking at the understanding of the content in a very specific environment in the future in which the person will always have access to enough information to find the information to express the basis of their thoughts.

    I just can't imagine this process of notes producing students who will be strong enough to be effective in their jobs later in life if what they learn is that they do not need to have any facts available to them to talk about issues.
     

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