Division of Academic Affairs
As we near the end of the semester, we repeat Maria's episode on the last day of class. This is the day to highlight what students have learned, bring meaning to the experience, and celebrate their achievements.
Welcome to this episode of "Teaching and Learning Matters." I’m Maria Yon, faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The purpose of this session is to share some ideas about bringing closure to that all important last day of class.
The last day of class has arrived. A semester has ended. Do you realize that the students have reached another milestone in their lives? Do you realize that you have been an important part of them reaching that milestone? Over the semester you have developed a relationship with a group of students—teaching them, guiding them, motivating them, moving them forward both academically and personally.
Milestones are often a time for reflection and celebration. Perhaps it can be so with your class as a way to bring closure to the course and to honor this time of having been together.
Of course there are the usual activities that take place in the last days. Conducting a review session is generally expected by the students. It prepares the students for the final exam by pulling together the main themes or issues that will be covered. It can be done in a brief lecture. And it’s important to leave time for students’ questions so that they feel confident about the content.
Instead you might consider giving a simulated exam to then be checked and discussed as a group. Another possibility is for students to design the exam although you are responsible for the final product. Students will also want to know how long the exam will be and how best to prepare for it. These activities relieve students of the stress they may feel about how or what to study. Also, they will be more motivated to study if they know what to expect.
Student course evaluation forms are traditionally administered at the end of the term to elicit student feedback about a course and the instructor. It is helpful to stress to students the purpose of the questionnaire and how it will be used by your department and how you personally will use the results. And, of course, you will need to follow your department guidelines for administering the course evaluations.
But let’s get back to bringing closure to this important milestone. You can have students reflect on and discuss how the class has changed their beliefs or understandings about a topic. Or how they will take this information into their lives outside of class and use it.
An activity I find most useful is having students write a letter to a future class about the course. They seem to take it more seriously and are very thoughtful when writing for a real audience. Some of their letters are more philosophical, others give more practical guidelines about how to approach the course. Their insights have been useful to me in preparing the course for the next semester—sometimes even more than end-of-course evaluations.
Finally, it’s a time to show acknowledgement and appreciation. Students can acknowledge each other publically for their contributions during the semester. It is a time for you to acknowledge the group, and perhaps some individuals, for their efforts and participation. Emphasize specifically how they have affected you, what you have learned from them.
Wish them luck and offer your assistance to them in the future if they should every need it. And remember, some of them might be graduating now. Make sure that somehow their accomplishment is highlighted on that last day. I always like to offer some words of wisdom and best wishes for the future to all of them, but especially to the graduates.
Thanks for listening. Tune in again for more "Teaching and Learning Matters.
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