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Using Exam Wrappers in a Self-Directed First-Year Learning Strategies Course

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Focusing on Student Success

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Abigail T. Stephan Clemson University

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Abby is a doctoral student in the Learning Sciences program at Clemson University. Broadly, her research interests include intergenerational learning in informal settings, self-directed learning, and cultural influences on the learning process. Abby currently works as a graduate assistant for the General Engineering Learning Community (GELC), a program that supports first-year engineering students in their development of self-regulation and time management skills, effective learning strategies, and positive habits of mind.

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Laurel Whisler Clemson University

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Laurel Whisler is Assistant Director and Coordinator of Course Support Programs in Clemson University’s Westmoreland Academic Success Program. In this capacity, she provides vision and direction for the Tutoring and Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) programs and provides support to the General Engineering Learning Community. She is also co-developer of Entangled Learning, a framework of rigorously-documented, self-directed collaborative learning. She has an M.A. in Music from The Pennsylvania State University and an M.L.S. from Indiana University.

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Elizabeth Anne Stephan Clemson University

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Dr. Elizabeth Stephan is the Director of Academics for the General Engineering Program at Clemson University. She holds a B.S. and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Akron. Since 2002, she has taught, developed, and and now coordinates the first-year curriculum. As the lead author of the "Thinking Like an Engineer" textbook, currently in its 4th edition, she has been the primary author team–member in charge of the development of the MyEngineeringLab system.

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Bridget Trogden Clemson University Orcid 16x16

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Bridget Trogden holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois and was an Assistant, then Associate, Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Mercer University for twelve years. She received Mercer’s Innovations in Teaching Award and was a Governor’s Teaching Fellow for the State of Georgia. She was the inaugural Director of the First-year Seminar program as part of a General Education curricular revision at Mercer. Her last three years at Mercer were also spent serving as Director of the program “Research that Reaches Out,” which integrated research and service by involving faculty and students in real-world problems.
As a chemist, Dr. Trogden’s broad interest area is the impact of small molecules on human health. These projects have been applied in research on breast cancer, pregnancy-associated malaria, and metabolic disorders. She has worked with undergraduate student researchers and has presented on Capitol Hill as part of the Council on Undergraduate Research.
Dr. Trogden joined Clemson in 2017 as the Associate Dean for Engagement & General Education and as Associate Professor in Engineering and Science Education. Her current research projects are focused on improving student learning and success through pedagogical adaptation and high-impact educational practices.

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The General Engineering Learning Community (GELC) at Clemson University provides academic support for first-year engineering students with insufficient calculus skills upon entry to the university. One component of the program is a two credit-hour learning strategies course that focuses on building skills around being an effective learner and STEM student. Employing Entangled Learning as the pedagogical framework, the course aims to enhance students’ self-regulatory behaviors, learning skills and strategies, and habits of mind. Student learning is assessed through a series of learning journal assignments, including an exam wrapper activity, which will be the subject of this paper.

This paper will present a focused exploration of the exam wrapper activity results as they relate to academic achievement and increased metacognitive awareness for students within the program. The exam wrapper activity guides students in developing knowledge of their exam preparation, learning new preparation strategies, and engaging with those strategies in preparation for the next exam. The cycle continues as students analyze the results of their second exam to gain knowledge about the effectiveness of their new strategies. Prior to the first round of exams, students complete pre-exam assignments, including a week-long time tracking log and a reflection reporting perceived confidence level in each of the three cohorted courses. Following the first round of exams, students select the course in which they wish to improve their performance most significantly and then complete both an exam wrapper survey and learning strategies survey to evaluate their preparatory behaviors, conceptual understanding, and performance on the exam. Each student develops an action plan for improvement based on their results and begins implementation immediately. Following the second exam, students complete an exam wrapper survey followed by a learning journal, in which students evaluate and reflect on their adherence to their action plan and performance on the second exam.

We propose that engagement with this exam wrapper activity in the context of the Entangled Learning framework contributes to students’ knowledge of how to effectively learn in STEM courses in addition to enhancing student performance on the second exam and sharpening metacognitive processes. A mixed methods approach will be utilized to analyze student learning gains by quantifying exam and course grades as well as qualitatively examining students’ self-reported responses through reflections, exam wrapper survey results, and documentation of changed study behaviors.

Stephan, A. T., & Whisler, L., & Stephan, E. A., & Trogden, B. (2019, June), Using Exam Wrappers in a Self-Directed First-Year Learning Strategies Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33503

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