Bringing It All Together

Wrapping Up

This has been a tough semester for many of our students: Irma was just the beginning. Students are stressed, and some are grieving. Soon they’ll be swamped in exams and final papers; you’ll be buried in grading–but your course deserves a denouement that isn’t frantic or underwhelming. So now, before the holiday, is a good time to plan a wrap-up activity, to make the last (and lasting) impression of the semester a positive one.

A good closing activity can help students recognize how much they’ve learned this term and consider what they want to keep on learning; it can reinforce the value and relevance of the material they’ve studied; it can also acknowledge the sense of loss they (and we) may feel when our time together comes to an end.

As Boettcher (2012) points out, “a well-designed ending of a course provides opportunities for reflection and integration of useful knowledge. It is also a time to wrap up positive social and cognitive experiences.”

The closing of a course is an important time for synthesis, and for remembering the bigger picture. Students need to think about the course as a whole, identifying patterns or themes; since learning must build upon prior knowledge, they need to solidify the connections they’ve made, and forge sound links to new ideas and concepts. It doesn’t hurt to revisit the syllabus, and ask students to evaluate their attainment of the learning goals, or summarize the central course concepts. You might encourage them to speculate on future questions or challenges related to what they’ve learned. You can ask them to draw concept maps, or write course cover letters explaining what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown. They might compose letters of advice to future students of the class, reflecting on the course, how they studied, and the effectiveness of their strategies. (Some faculty actually share the letters with the next semester’s students.)

It’s valuable to consider the social element of class closure, as well. Some faculty thank their students for their effort and openness during the semester; some shake hands with each student. Some classes make mementos of their learning or their community.

You’ve all worked hard this fall: it feels good to admire what you’ve built.