Teaching reflections #11: The turn-in sheet

In recent years, I’ve started creating “turn-in sheets” with my assignments in academic land.

My assignments spell out what I want students to do for a graded project.

The turn-in sheet structures their answers. It ensures that they’ve hit everything that I wanted them to address in their work.

Originally, I asked students to do this to streamline grading. When I ask for use of certain structures or functionalities when building a web page, I do not want to dig through each site to find the thing. I definitely don’t want to dig through tons of code to find relevant lines. The turn-in sheet asked the student to tell me where all of the things were that they needed to address in the assignment.

Later, I realized these turn-in sheets serve more functions than this.

  • Student anxiety is reduced, because they know they’ve addressed all aspects of the project by completing the turn-in sheet.

  • Students were more likely to reflect on their work, because it was clearer to them what they accomplished when it was formatted well.

  • It helped to cut down on cheating. This was completely unexpected! When students have to explain where to find an example of X programming structure, they must understand the code they steal. I still remember the student who stole a 12-column layout and claimed it was a 4-column layout. We caught it because the student didn’t understand the stolen code and pointed us to exactly where the plagiarism happened.

Turn-in sheets and course workbooks help to make intangible skills like programming feel more real. They organize thinking. And they may make your grading life easier, too. Try this for your next course.

Jen Kramer @jen4web