Ideas for a Great Last Class
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 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.