EFFECTS OF CRIB-SHEET USE ON LEARNING IN GENERAL CHEMISTRY

 

L. S. Kogut * and J-P. Mulilis **

* Department of Chemistry, ** Department of Psychology

Penn State Beaver Campus Pennsylvania 15061

lenk+@pitt.edu

 

* Current address: Department of Chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260

 

INTRODUCTION

Metacognition is the act of learning how we learn thinking about our own thinking [1]. Various studies indicate that some students enter college, and indeed, graduate school, with incorrect chemital concepts. Consequently, how students learn and how they think about their learning has become a very important area ofresearch for chemical educators [2-8]. One of us permits students in General Chemistry to use self-prepared crib sheets on examinations. In the present study we examine the utility of crib sheets as leaming tools for students in chemistry, with a parallel companion study currently underway in psychology.

Crib sheets, as defined in this study, are self-prepared 8-1/2 x 1l inch papers (both sides) on which students write anything they think will be helpful on an exam. Students use a variety of styles and formats which include: sample problems, learning objectives by chapter, relatively complete summary of notes, and individual trouble spots. From the outset we hypothesized that students would learn while they prepared and organized the crib sheets, so we designed an experimental procedure to test this hypothesis and other related ideas.

 

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN AND PROCEDURE

We assigned students to one of four groups (A, B, C, D), and assigned specific groups to one of three conditions (1, 2, 3) for each of the four major course examinations. For example, students in condition 1 knew with certainty from the first day of class they would be permitted to use a crib sheet on any particular exam. Students in condition 2 knew they definitely would not be permitted to use a crib sheet on any particular exam. When in condition 3, students did not know if they would be able to use a crib sheet until 5 minutes before any particular exam. Thus, half the students in condition 3 (randomly chosen) were then permitted to use a crib sheet and half were not, but no student in this condition knew her or his status until just prior to the exam. Each student was in condition 1 and 2 once and in condition 3 twice. Table 1 presents this information as it was supplied to students in the course syllabus.

Because student status in condition 3 was determined randomly, some students used crib sheets on 3 of the 4 exams, some on 2 of the 4 exams, and some on only 1 of 4 exams. A total of 114 students (88 male, 26 female) participated in this study and earned bonus points for the course as partial compensation for participating in this study.

To summarize, the experimental design involved testing ofstudents in chemistry who either used or did not use a crib sheet and who either did or did not know in advance whether the crib sheet could be used. Student scores as well as student responses to a survey given to each student after each exam were collected and analyzed. Table 2 contains this survey instrument.

 

DISCUSSION

The average numeric scores on all exams according to group, condition, and gender occur in Table 3. This experiment yielded mixed results. We expected students who prepared and did not use crib sheets to do as well as those who prepared and used them. The data verified this assumption for males for all four exams, with the "not use" group actually scoring higher in exam 3 than the "use" group. Differences in exam averages, however, were not statistically significant.

 

For female students, with the exception of exam 1, where the "not use" group outperformed the "use" group, the data indicates for exams 2, 3, and 4 the "use" group outperformed the "not use" group. Only on exam 4 was the difference in exam average between female students in the "use" and "not use" conditions significant (t(24) = 2.66, p = 0.014). The data also revealed mixed results when scores of those who knew their status before the exam and those who did not are compared. On exams 1 and 2, males did better when they knew their status. On exams 3 and 4 males did better when in the unknown condition than males who knew their status. The data showed a reversal of this observation for female students. On exams 1 and 2 the females who were in the unknown status outperformed females who knew their status. On exams 3 and 4, however, females in the "know" group outperformed females who did not know their status. Unlike the comparison between the "use" and "not use" groups, these differences were statistically significant on all four exams. For example, on the 3rd exam the significance was (t(57) = 1.70, p = .09).

 

RESULTS

Results of a 2 (use/non-use) x 2 (know/not know) ANOVA showed no significant effect on scores based on these variables. That is, student scores on exams were independent of either their knowledge of or use of the crib sheets. However, the overall outcome of the study seems consistent with the initial premise that it is preparation of the sheet rather than its use that mitigates exam performance. The student survey data also provides some support for this premise. Table 3 indicates that on exams 3 and 4 the students who did not use the crib sheet in general did somewhat more poorly than those who used the crib sheets on these exams, especially the female students. It is on these exams also that the % ofstudents in the "unknown" condition choosing not to prepare crib sheets rises dramatically (8 and 11% on El, E2 to 25%, 28% on E3, E4). Table 4 presents this information.

 

Another unexpected observation emerged from analysis of this data: when participants could use crib sheets, males scored significantly higher than females (t(52) = 1.97, p= 0.05). However, there was no significant difference between male and female scores when participants did not know if they could use crib sheets (t(57) = 2.24, p = 0.03). This finding seems contrary to what is expected based on the work of Benbow and Stanley; that is, males typically outperform females in mathematics and science (9). Student responses to the surveys administered at the end of each examination provided insight into the study habits and perceptions of the 114 students participating in this study in General Chemistry, Fall, 1995 at Penn State Beaver Campus.

 

(1)

Students who used the crib sheets thought they did better on the examinations than those who did not use crib sheets, based on a grade point average computed from survey responses.

(2)

The % of students in condition 3 who elected not to prepare crib sheets increased on exams 3 and 4 compared to exams 1 and 2.

(3)

Students did not generally believe the crib sheets were as helpful as we might have predicted, rating the effectiveness on a 6.00 point scale from 3.14 (condition 3, exam 2, not-use) to 4.60 (condition 3, exam 4, use) with a mean score over all exams and conditions of 3. 76.

(4)

The median length of time students spent preparing crib sheets was approximately 1 hour per exam with a tendency for students who knew they were going to use a crib sheet to increase their preparation time from exam 1 through exam 4. On exams 3 and 4,62% of the "know" group reported spending more than 1 hour, compared to exams 1 and 2 for which 41% of the students spent more than 1 hour. Perhaps this indicates a growing sense of reliance on the sheets or belief in their effectiveness.

(5)

Students participating in this study did not cooperate with each other in preparing crib sheets, with only slightly over 20% of respondents reporting they cooperated with others in preparing a crib sheet.

 

CONCLUSION

This study provides the basis for further investigation but did not establish conclusively that crib sheets were beneficial as a learning aid. Areas for additional study include:

 

(1) clarification of the impact of gender differences on use/knowledge of crib sheet use,

(2) impact of the format of crib sheet on performance,

(3) impact of the training of crib sheet design on performance,

(4) examination of crib sheets to discover student misconceptions,

(5) analysis of the crib sheets for content and correlation of content with student performance.

 

REFERENCES

l. Caine, R. N. and Caine, G. (1994). Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Addison-Wesley, Menlo Park, CA.

2. Bodner, G. M. J. Chem. Educ., 1986, 63, 873-878.

3. Bodner, G. M. J. Chem. Educ., 1992, 69, 186-190.

4. Nakleh, M. P. J. Chem. Educ., 1992, 69, 191-195.

5. Nakleh, M. P. and Mitchell, R.C. J. Chem. Educ., 1993, 70, 190-192.

6. Zoller, V.; Lubezky, A.; Nakleh, M. B.; Tesler, B.; Yehudit, D. J. Chem. Educ., 1995, 72, 987-989.

7. Krishman S. R. and Howe, A.C. J. Chem. Educ., 1994, 71, 653-655.

8. Nakleh, M. B., Lowrey, K. A., and Mitchell, R. C. J. Chem. Educ., 1996, 73, 758-762.

9. Benbow, C. P. and Stanley, J. C. Science, 1983, 222, 1029.

 

 

TABLE 1

The rotation of groups across conditions will occur according to the following schedule:

 

EXAMINATION

CONDITION 1

CONDITION 2

CONDITION 3

1

GROUP A

GROUP B

GROUPS C&D

2

GROUP D

GROUP A

GROUPS B&C

3

GROUP C

GROUP D

GROUPS A&B

4

GROUP B

GROUP C

GROUPS D&A

 

Condition:

 

l.

Those allowed to use "crib sheets"

2.

Those not allowed to use "crib sheets"

3.

Those who won't know if they will or will not be allowed to use "crib sheets" until just prior to the examination.

 

TABLE 2

CRIB SHEET STUDY EXAMINATION OUESTIONNAIRE FALL, 1995

Please answer the following questions by circling one of the options indicated.

 

1.

Which of the following examinations did you just complete?

 

1st exam

2nd exam

3rd exam

4th exam

 

 

2.

What grade do you think that you obtained in THIS EXAM?

 

A

B

C

D

E

 

 

3.

For this examination, which ofthe following conditions was your group in?

 

condition 1

allowed to

use crib sheets

condition 2

not allowed to

use crib sheets

condition 3

did not know and

COULD USE

sheets

condition 4

did not know and

COULD NOT USE

sheets

 

 

4.

Regardless of whether you thought you could or could not USE a crib sheet for this examination, did you PREPARE a crib sheet for this examination?

 

prepared a crib sheet

did not prepare a crib sheet

 

 

5.

If you prepared a crib sheet for this examination, did you prepare it by yourself or did you prepare it with others?

 

by myself

with others

DID NOT PREPARE

A CRIB SHEET

 

 

 

6.

If you prepared a crib sheet for this examination, how much time did you spend preparing the sheet?

 

less

than

1/4

hour

1/4

to

1/2

hour

1/2

to

1

hour

1

to

2

hours

more

than

2

hours

DID NOT

PREPARE

A CRIB

SHEET

 

 

7.

If you prepared a crib sheet for this examination, how would you characterize the time spent preparing the crib sheet for this examination?

 

1 2 3 4 5 6

I----------I----------I----------I----------I----------I

not at very

all useful useful

DID NOT

PREPARE

A CRIB

SHEET

 

 

TABLE 3

The average numeric scores on all exams according to group, condition, and gender occur in Table 3.

 

KNOWLEDGE

USE

MALES

 

FEMALES

 

MALES

 

FEMALES

 

 

 

M*

 

N*

 

M

 

N

 

 

M

 

N

 

M

 

N

EXAM 1

Know

66.6

44

57.3

15

Use

66.5

40

56.8

14

 

Not Know

60.9

44

61.4

11

Not Use

62.3

48

61.7

12

 

EXAM 2

 

Know

 

61.5

 

41

 

48.3

 

12

 

Use

 

58.9

 

45

 

60.4

 

11

 

Not Know

56.5

46

62.9

14

Not Use

58.8

42

53

15

 

EXAM 3

 

Know

 

50.5

 

4.3

 

54.5

 

11

 

Use

 

50.6

 

46

 

52.3

 

15

 

Not Know

 

53.3

 

44

 

46.7

 

15

Not Use

53.3

41

46.8

11

 

EXAM 4

 

Know

 

53.6

 

46

 

60.0

 

14

 

Use

 

57.9

 

42

 

64.2

 

12

 

Not Know

56.7

41

47.9

12

Not Use

52.3

45

46.1

14

 

 

*M = mean

**N = number ofstudents

 

 

TABLE 4

PERCEIVED EFFECTIVENESS OF CRIB-SHEETS

 

 

Cond 1 Cond 2

(crib sheet allowed) (crib sheet not allowed)

 

Cond 3

(crib sheet states unknown until exam)

Use Not Use

 

1

2

E1 3

4

5

6

 

 

3

5

10

9

7

7

(34Y)(1N)*

 

 

 

1

1

 

 

(2Y)(30N)

 

1

3

8

6

3

3

(24Y)(2N)

 

2

5

9

2

5

2

(25Y)(4N)

 

1

2

3

E2 4

5

6

 

 

0

1

7

7

8

3

(26Y)(0N)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(7Y)(25N)

 

2

3

10

6

7

3

(31Y)(4N)

 

3

4

7

3

2

2

(21Y)(1N)

 

1

2

3

E3 4

5

6

 

 

0

2

9

8

5

1

(25Y)(1N)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1Y)(25N)

 

2

3

7

11

4

2

(29Y)(7N)

 

0

0

5

11

1

2

(19Y)(9N)

 

1

2

3

E4 4

5

6

 

 

1

2

5

9

7

4

(28Y)(5N)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(5Y)(26N)

 

0

1

3

4

7

5

(20Y)(7N)

 

2

3

4

4

3

3

(19Y)(8N)

 

Y = prepared a crib sheet

N= did not prepare crib sheet

 

 

TABLE 5

GRADE EXPECTATIONS

 

 

Cond 1 Cond 2

 

 

Cond 3

Use Not Use

 

A

B

E1 C

D

F

 

 

4

10

18

3

0

2.43

 

4

8

15

5

1

2.32

 

0

12

8

4

2

2.15

 

4

12

6

4

3

2.35

 

A

B

E2 C

D

F

 

 

0

10

12

4

0

2.23

 

4

9

14

7

1

1.97

 

2

11

18

3

2

1.90

 

0

8

6

7

3

1.79

 

A

B

E3 C

D

F

 

 

1

7

18

1

0

2.79

 

1

5

14

6

0

2.04

 

2

16

13

3

2

2.33

 

1

5

17

4

1

2.04

 

A

B

E4 C

D

F

 

 

4

7

16

3

4

2.12

 

0

6

14

8

3

1.74

 

2

7

14

4

0

2.26

 

0

8

8

10

1

1.85