Assignment/Exam Wrappers

One of our teaching goals at DU is to help empower students to be self-directed learners and to own their learning process. A common method used in this effort is the “wrapper.” A wrapper is a short form that students complete along with an assignment or exam that focuses on the learning process rather than on the content itself.

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Marsha Lovett and her colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University are credited with creating the exam wrapper technique. Wrappers were developed in reaction to their findings that many successful high school students were arriving at college with study habits that are ineffective for higher order learning. Wrappers provide students with a chance to reflect upon, compare, and adjust their learning habits and strategies. Lovett showed that student made real and important changes to their study strategies as a result of using exam wrappers (Lovett, 2013).

Guidelines for using Wrappers

In general, wrappers ask students to think about how they prepared for the assignment/exam, what went well, what didn’t, and how they might change their study habits for the future. To use them effectively, it is suggested that the wrappers:

  • focus on the study/metacognitive skills the instructor wants to promote,
  • be repeated during a class,
  • are flexible enough for minor adaptations for particular assignments,
  • are short enough to complete relatively quickly (either inside or outside of class), and
  • are non-graded or graded based on completion only.

The process

  1. The wrapper is usually handed out to students when the exam or assignment is returned.
  2. Students are asked to fill out the form in 10 minutes or less during class, or outside of class if necessary. If possible students can discuss their forms in small groups. Students are not graded based on the content of the wrapper, but rather receive credit for completing the form.
  3. The instructor and/or TA collects the forms and reads through them, looking for general themes. Potential adjustments to the course may be made as a result of the findings.
  4. When it is time to begin preparing for the next exam/assignment, the instructor returns the forms to the students. The instructor may hold a discussion about recommended study strategies, or have the students discuss and compare their strategies in small groups.
  5. This process can be repeated during a course.

Exam wrappers are the most common form of wrappers. However this technique could be used with many types of assignments or papers.

Resources

Examples of exam wrappers http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/examwrappers/

Examples of wrappers for writing or performance assignments http://teachingnaked.com/cognitive-wrappers-using-metacognition-and-reflection-to-improve-learning/

Lovett, M.C. (2013) Make exams worth more than the grade: Using exam wrappers to promote metacognition. In Kaplan, M., Silver, N, Lavaque-Manty, D., & Meizlish, D.’s Using reflection and metacognition to improve student learning. Stylus Publishing: Sterling, VA., pp. 18-52.

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