How can I use exam wrappers?

How does it align with the module learning outcomes? Does it assess  skills and knowledge that are key to the discipline?

The exam wrapper itself should not be assessed but it aligns with a learning outcomes of fostering autonomy, agency and self-regulation, or learning to learn.


How will I set it up?

Lovett discusses three types of questions that compose her exam wrappers:

Reflecting on Preparation: The goal of these questions is to have students reflect on the choices that they made when studying for the exam.  For example, how much time was spent, where was the focus, what study strategies were used?

Kinds of Errors: Having reflected on their studying, students are asked to categorize the types of errors they made. One hope is that students will connect suboptimal study strategies with certain types of mistakes on the exam.  For example, reading and rereading the same material is likely to be a poor study strategy, perhaps evidenced by lost marks on application- or synthesis-type questions.

Changes for Next Time: The ultimate goal of the exam wrapper and its focus on metacognition is student improvement. For these questions, students are asked how they intend to improve for next time. Student responses should be guided by their reflection on where they lost marks and how their existing study strategies were inadequate.

The exam wrappers can be completed in class time or completed on KEATS, as close to the exam as possible. If you feel students will not engage with it online, you could do it in class yourself or ask a GTA to hand them out for the first 10 minutes of a seminar.

Here are some example of exam wrappers from Carnegie Mellon Eberly Centre that can be adapted to different disciplines:


When will it occur in the term/module? How will I mark it? Will I grade it? What criteria will I use? How will I give feedback?

Research has shown that it might not have the desired benefits if it is used only once or as one-off intervention. Therefore its optimal use is not on final exams but on formative exams, mocks and midterms.

Lovett recommends collecting the exam wrappers in to look at them, to help you get a sense of data patterns and form part of a diagnostic assessment of student learning. You might want to provide some generic feedback online but ideally they should facilitate a discussion of learning and studying strategies to feedforward into future exams.

They can be graded but grading something subjective which requires student honesty is likely to encourage students to tell you what they think you want to hear. Therefore, grading is not recommended. If you feel students will not complete it, you could add a very small weighting to the exam score for its completion.

How will I address potential challenges?

Do I need to make any modifications for accessibility/inclusivity? Can I build these into the design?

Some students may have trouble identifying good and bad strategies and these can also be quite subjective. As with the two-stage exam procedure, exam wrappers can be done as a peer activity rather than an individual one. This is likely to stymy individual reflection and metacognition however.

Do I need to make any modifications for large cohort sizes?

Giving generic rather than individual feedback, or using it as a group activity where one group member reports back for four or five students can also help reduce workload.

How can I introduce it to students?

As with all new assessments, explain your rationale to the students. Students who are accustomed to exam cultures might be initially resistant. However, it should be clear to students how to complete the exam wrapper and why.