“Checklists seem able to defend anyone, even the experienced, against failure in many more tasks than we realized.” ― Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto
Ever since reading Atul Gawande’s wonderful book, The Checklist Manifesto, I have been ticking little boxes on Evernote or crossing out bullets in my bullet journal. I’ve made checklists for different kinds of trips, setting up Zoom lessons, and even packing my gym bag. After my checklist conversion, it struck me that these things would also benefit my students, so I installed the Moodle Checklist plugin.
This is one of the more popular Moodle plugins, and with good reason. It is visually attractive, easy use and gives you a lot of bang for your buck in terms of learner engagement. Set up is also straightforward. If you want a simple list where the teacher adds items and the student checks them, just fill in the name and description and leave the other settings as they are. If you want to do something a bit different, some settings that might be useful are as follows:
- User can add their own items. Students can flesh out a checklist with items of their own (useful for larger, more student-directed activities such as projects).
- Updates by … The default is that only students check off items, but if you prefer, you can give the teacher the ability to do this.
- Add due dates to calendar. You have the option of setting dates for checklist items (see below). Checking this box will add those dates to the Moodle calendar.
- Show course modules in checklist. This lets you automatically add items from the course as a whole or from the section the checklist is in. (You can later hide the ones you don’t want to appear.)
Adding items is also pretty simple, and it is easy to indent and reorder them. Items can be made obligatory or optional. You can also import checklists from a CSV file.
The example here is one I made to encourage students to check their written work carefully before uploading it. Anyone who has had to read student essays will be familiar with the kind of problems I wanted to address: quoted material without quotation marks, missing citations, missing title page, sloppy grammar and spelling etc. You can tell students about these all you like, but you can be pretty sure that a lot of them will forget to do at least one of the things they need to do because that is human nature. Of course, having them check off items on a list does not ensure that they will actually do them, but at least they will be aware that the ought to.
If you want to raise the stakes and are prepared to do the work, you can choose the above-mentioned option to have the teacher check off items. You might do this when students have a number of things that they really have to do before submitting a piece of work, but you can’t, or don’t want to turn them into assignments. for example, it might be a condition for a presentation that they form a group, notify you of the members, tell you their topic and attend a tutorial. However, I generally prefer to leave things to students as much as possible.
However, you organise the checklist, it’s nice to be able to see at a glance how students are progressing with it, so it is worth installing the Checklist block. This will display the progress bars of all students, so you can see at a glance who is falling behind.
By themselves, however, checklists cannot make anyone follow them.” ― Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto
If checklists stop students from forgetting what they need to do, how do we stop them forgetting to complete the checklist? I solved this by putting a restriction on the assignment itself such that students could not access it until the checklist was marked as complete.
Of course this means that a few students will only visit the checklist when they come to upload their work a few minutes before the deadline, and will thus tick all the boxes without reading them, but at least then they won’t be able to say “But I didn’t know we needed to write a reference list!”