self-assessment; peer review; metacognition, writing, writing improvement, first-year students


Metacognition emphasizes an awareness and understanding of one’s thought and cognitive processes, along with management of cognition through multiple strategies including organizing, monitoring, and adapting. Before students can truly become effective writers, they must develop an appreciation for the amount of planning, organization, and revision that comprises a writing assignment. In order to improve student writing, the exam autopsy approach, an integrated post-exam assessment model that draws upon self-assessment, peer review, and instructor feedback, was modified to include metacognitive components for use with essay exams and writing assignments. The current study employed a mixed-methods design with a quasi-experimental, non-equivalent group component across four institutions over two semesters, with the fall semester classes (T1) functioning as the control group and the spring semester classes (T2) functioning as the experimental group. During the spring semester of each class, the modified version of the exam autopsy process (EA 2.0) was used between two submissions of student writing (either essay exams or drafts of papers). The process was found to be significant in terms of its impact on student scores in lower division classes, but not in upper division classes. Qualitative data analysis reveals some of the reasons behind the observable improvements (or lack thereof) in student writing. These, as well as possible future implications for both teaching and research, are offered in this article.



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