Metacognitive Wrappers + Upcoming Teaching Showcase

Exam & Assignment Wrappers

By this point in the semester, your students have probably completed graded work and gotten some feedback, so they have a sense of their progress toward the learning goals of the course.

After students take an exam or turn in a project, they usually focus on the score they got and how it will factor into their final grade in the course. This focus on scores is understandable, considering the powerful impact of grades on students’ academic progress, financial aid, future goals, and even self-perceptions. But this focus doesn’t help students learn more in the class, and exams (or projects, performances, etc.) can be rich opportunities for learning.

If students focus only on their scores and the class moves on, they miss an opportunity to reflect on how they are building knowledge over time and to identify and learn from their mistakes. This information about where they are succeeding and what they need to work on is crucial for their success in the course; without it, they’re likely to end up trying to construct knowledge on increasingly shaky foundations.

To take advantage of the learning opportunity exams and assignments provide, faculty in a variety of disciplines use metacognitive activities called exam wrappers or assignment wrappers to help students think critically about their own learning, so that they can learn more effectively and perform better both in the remainder of the class and in future courses. These wrappers help students to learn from their errors and further consolidate the skills they’re developing. The most fruitful wrappers ask students to do two things:

  1. Review their work, determining what they did well and what they need to improve, correct, or revise. If it’s an exam, they can do some error analysis, identifying what they missed and where the information related to those questions or problems can be found. Students should also look for patterns in their errors: did their mistakes reflect miscalculations, misreading questions, etc.? If they have an opportunity to correct their errors, they should also be asked to explain why the correct answer is the right response, or how the work could be improved. They need to identify what major concepts they had trouble with, so they can go back and fill in the gaps in their learning. We can even encourage them to form study groups to work on this.
  2. Reflect on how they prepared for the exam or on the process through which they completed the project. How much time did they invest? For an exam, what did studying mean—reading the material, outlining, reviewing notes, answering practice questions? If their strategies didn’t work, how do they plan to prepare differently next time? Less successful students are often those who read over their notes repeatedly, rather than grappling with sample questions. They may be investing enormous amounts of time to little avail, but you can point them toward guides to effective study habits, like Dr. Chew’s. If the assignment was a project, students can reflect on their process to determine whether it was effective: Did they understand the assignment? How did they plan their approach to it? Did they get feedback on their ideas or on a draft? What resources did they consult? Did they revise and edit their work? How could their process be improved for better results next time?

When you ask students to complete a wrapper, they benefit greatly from the opportunities for deeper learning. Some faculty don’t record an exam grade until the wrapper is completed, and some use them as in-class assignments. Others administer a second exam on the same material after a week or so, and average the two grades, or let students use the wrapper to earn back a limited number of points they missed on an exam. There are many ways to incorporate wrappers into a course and to motivate students to complete them.

If you would like support to create an exam or assignment wrapper, or to adapt an existing one to fit the context of your course, we would be happy to help! Contact us at to schedule a consultation. We look forward to working with you!


Provost’s Showcase of Scholarly Teaching

Friday, April 5th | 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. | SSB 201/203 | Click to apply

We’re delighted to announce that CAT and FSU Libraries will host FSU’s inaugural Provost’s Showcase of Scholarly Teaching this spring. This event is an opportunity for you to share your teaching expertise and innovations with the larger campus community. Even if you’ve never thought about presenting at a pedagogical conference before, you likely have strategies and insights that could be of benefit to colleagues. We invite you to apply to host a roundtable discussion or present a poster.

If you would like to apply, please fill out our application form. The application due date is February 23, 2024. We look forward to working with you!