A Strong Ending to the Semester
Somehow the end of the term is upon us already. With only a week and a half of regular classes remaining, we may be tempted to speed up the pace of the class in a scramble to fit in as much content as possible before we part ways with our students. But this time of year, students are inundated with projects and exams, so their capacity for processing loads of new material is limited.
At any point in the semester, we know that the more content we try to race through, the less students actually learn. To learn deeply, they need opportunities to think, to analyze, to apply concepts, and to develop skills through practice and feedback.
So instead, when we feel time running short, we can prioritize. What are the most important learning goals? How did you hope students would grow intellectually, professionally, and personally because they took your course? What is most important to talk about, to do, and to work on in the final weeks, so that students have the best chance of accomplishing those goals?
In addition to spending the last few class meetings focused on the highest priorities, we can plan a final class session that brings the course to a meaningful close. We can help students consolidate and strengthen their memories with wrap-up activities that prompt them to reflect on and make meaning of their learning. An effective closing activity will help students recognize how much they’ve learned this fall 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.
The closing of a course is a good time for synthesis. Since learning must build upon prior knowledge, students need to solidify the connections they’ve made between old ideas and new. August probably seems like a lifetime ago to most of our students, so it may be useful to revisit the syllabus, asking them to evaluate their attainment of the learning goals, or summarize the central concepts of the course. You might encourage them to speculate on future questions or challenges related to what they’ve learned. They might compose letters of advice to future students of the class, reflecting on the course, how they studied, and the effectiveness of their methods. (Some faculty actually share these letters with the next semester’s students.)
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 shake hands with each student. Some classes make mementos of their learning or their community. Kevin Dougherty at Baylor creates a celebration of his students’ learning. We deserve to celebrate our own work this semester, and we can encourage our students to take pride in how they’ve learned and grown.
Thank you for all you do!
If you’d like support as you plan for the end of the semester, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to working with you.
Spring 2023 Syllabus Clinics
We’ll be holding Syllabus Clinics after fall classes end! You can schedule an appointment to meet with us during this time to discuss your syllabus, how you’ve designed your course, how you plan to use class time, or any other aspect of your teaching. We can also reflect on how your fall classes went, and how that might shape your planning for spring. If you and a colleague(s) are working on revising a syllabus together, we can meet with you as a small group.
To sign up, email us at email@example.com, and let us know your name, department, and the course you’re planning. Please also let us know which day and time (from the options below) you’d like to meet, and whether you prefer to meet in person or on Zoom. We look forward to working with you!
The Syllabus Clinics will be held from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on the following dates:
- Wednesday, Dec. 7th
- Thursday, Dec. 8th
- Friday, Dec. 9th
- Wednesday, Dec. 14th
- Thursday, Dec. 15th