Illuminating Accomplishments

Do Students Know How Far They’ve Come?

With only a week of classes left, it’s a good time to think about how you’d like to bring the semester to a close with your students. A good closing activity can help them to recognize what they’ve learned, take pride in their accomplishments, and celebrate the ways they’ve grown intellectually, professionally, and personally over the last semester and year.

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.” To emphasize the social element of class closure, some faculty thank their students for their effort and openness in the course. Some find ways to congratulate and connect with each student individually. Some classes make mementos of their learning or their community. Kevin Dougherty at Baylor creates a celebration of his students’ learning. Depending on class size and discipline, each student might have a few minutes to talk about or share some of their work.

The closing of a course is also a good time for synthesis. Students can reflect on how their understanding has changed because they took the course; since learning must build upon prior knowledge, they need to solidify the connections they’ve made between old ideas and new. How do they see things differently than they did in January? What can they do now that they couldn’t do before? Especially during tumultuous times like ours, when students may be focused on just getting through the term, they may not reflect on their learning, or realize how much they’ve grown, unless we prompt them to do it.

The end of a course can also present an opportunity to self-assess, which can be good preparation for final exams. When students are reflecting on what they’ve learned, they can also identify a few areas they still want to practice, clarify, or review in preparation for finals week. An activity in which they take inventory of what they know well and what they still want to study can be followed by a reminder that some study strategies work much better than others.

A closing activity can also be an opportunity for looking forward. Some graduating seniors might like to share what they’re doing next. Students of all levels can speculate on future questions or challenges related to what they’ve learned. They might admire how people in the field are solving the problems of today and imagine how they can work together to solve new problems tomorrow.


Summer Teaching Workshop

Monday, April 25 | 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. with a lunch break | Zoom | Sign up to attend

If you’re teaching in the summer, you may be wondering how to make a course you normally teach in fall or spring work well in a compressed summer semester. No need to do all of the planning alone! Join us for this hands-on summer teaching workshop, in which we’ll discuss how to distill a course to its essence, prioritizing so that you can set achievable learning goals for your students. Then, we’ll help you get started designing the course so students make progress toward those goals through fewer, but longer, class sessions. Since the extended meeting hours in summer demand that we vary our teaching strategies, sharing approaches and resources with colleagues across disciplines will make planning class sessions more fruitful and more enjoyable. We look forward to working with you!