UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Reflecting on student feedback–Exam Wrappers

This year, my colleague, Irene Witt, and I have looked for ways to get feedback from students on a more regular basis.  In this blog post, I will discuss how we use Exam Wrappers.

Exam Wrappers

We were first introduced to the concept of an Exam Wrapper in a course on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with our assistant superintendent, Dr. Katie Novak.  Since our first introduction to Exam Wrappers, our format and use of them has evolved (and continues to evolve) with each assessment.

At this point, we currently have students fill out the front of the Wrapper on the day that they take an assessment as an opportunity to self-reflect on their preparation.

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When we hand back the Assessments, we give back the Exam Wrappers at the same time.  Students use detailed answer keys to correct their work, and then they reflect on their performance on the back of the Exam Wrapper.  When we prepare these Wrappers, we identify some of the specific areas that are often problematic (i.e.,  not interpreting a word problem correctly on an algebra assessment), as well as more general problems that we see across content (i.e., I didn’t read the question carefully).

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Finally, students respond to four sentence stems, two giving themselves feedback and two giving their teachers feedback.

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Using the Feedback

I read every Exam Wrapper, often at the time that they are handed in, and I use them as conversation starters with students.  Sometimes, I use what students wrote as an opportunity to help students reflect on their own choices.  Sometimes, I use them to make changes in my own practice.  As I was writing this blog post, I realized most feedback falls into the following categories:

  1.  Student feedback leads to change in teacher actions.  For example, in response to student feedback, I now allow my students to either listen to music (at their seats) or to have flexible seating (on the floor, etc.) during assessments.  I have been explicit with students that their feedback was the impetus for this change in my choices as their teacher.
  2.  Student feedback leads to change in student actions.  In reading student self-reflections and in talking with students, I have developed various approaches to help relieve student anxiety, manage time, etc.  While an approach, like using a timer, might begin as a technique for one student in particular, I am always happy to make it available to any student who needs it or wants to try it.
  3.  Student feedback is discussed.  I had a student say that he wanted me to “always have live version” of class available, i.e., that he never wanted to have to learn from a teacher-created video.  We had a great discussion about how there are times when I am out of school and he would have to learn from a video I created, but that he still had the option to then follow up and ask for “live” help once I was back, something he hadn’t done in the situation he had reflected on with his Exam Wrapper.
  4.  Student feedback is ignored.  Students will ask for calculators on every assessment, even when the assessment is measuring computation; I give myself permission to “ignore” that feedback with the knowledge that the students don’t always see the big picture of every teacher choice.  Soliciting student feedback is not a mandate to make every change every student puts forth.

I have found these Exam Wrappers to be highly beneficial in improving my practice and in building community with my students.

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Thanks, as always, to Irene Witt and also to Caitlin Morris, for sharing her Exam Wrappers for inspiration!

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