the metacognition cycle: assess the task, evaluate strengths and weaknesses, plan the approach, apply s strategies, reflect, repeat.
Image from “Five Ways to Boost Metacognition in the Classroom” by J. Spencer (2013)

By Jennifer Bland

Have you ever been curious about how much your students are studying for exams, what material they are studying, and how they are preparing for exams?  Exam Wrappers are one way for you to gather this information from your students.  An Exam Wrapper is a written exercise the student completes immediately before or after a graded exam is returned. It is typically completed outside of class for little or no credit, students respond to prompts that require them to reflect on what they did to prepare for the exam, what happened during the
exam, and what they will do to prepare for the next exam to improve performance (Chen, 2016).

Exam Wrappers are good metacognitive exercises for your students to reflect on their learning and the study strategies they used to learn the material. Metacognition is thinking about your thinking.  The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University describes metacognition as the “processes used to plan, monitor, and assess one’s understanding and performance” (Chick, 2013).  Students need to be taught how to monitor and assess their learning and thinking, which is why exam wrappers can be helpful.

Many times students will study for an exam, take the exam, then not think about how their study habits or preparation affected the outcomes of the exam or how they could make better habits for a better outcome.  Students also may not think about what they learned and did not learn and what they should continue to work on to be ready for the final exam.  By asking your students to complete the reflective questions, you are guiding them through the metacognitive process. 

Your exam wrapper could take on different forms.  You may want to add a few questions at the end of the exam for students to complete.  You could add it as a separate assignment after they complete the exam.  Maybe you want it to be a form they complete and also complete corrections on the items they missed.

Effective and Adoptable Metacognitive Tools (Chen, 2016) reviews two different teaching tools tested in a college classroom—exam wrappers and quiz correction forms.  They have examples of both that they used with their students along with the results from the study. The Exam Wrapper example is on page 7 and provides a good starting point for you to think about which questions would be helpful to include for your students. Whichever route you decide is best for you and your students, make sure that you keep it simple so that your students will complete it and you have time to grade it.

If you have questions about Metacognitive Strategies you could include in your classes, make an appointment with a member of the CAIFS team!