“The final class is a key student retention milepost.”
Too often the final day(s) of class are disposable, with little to no activities other than a final project or exam, which “as Maier and Panitz (1996) note, ending a course with only a final exam often leaves students with a feeling of dread or inadequacy, rather than with a sense of accomplishment.” (BSU)
Make the time and put some thought into an activity to offer meaningful closure to your course as well as prepare the students for carrying their hard won knowledge and personal lessons forward to the next term or out into the world.
In either small classes or large classes, you can structure a basic activity to activate metacognitive reflection to value what they have learned. Have students write down answers and then discuss via a THink-Pair-Share, small group etc.
Dietz-Uhler & Lanter (2009) found the following 4 questions especially effective:
- Can you identify one important concept, research finding, theory, or idea that you learned while taking this class?
- Why do you believe that this concept, research finding, theory, or idea is important?
- Apply what you have learned from this class to some aspect of your life.
- What question(s) has the class raised for you? What are you still wondering about?
Here are other specific prompts/ideas compiled from Resources:
- Ask students to write down went well and what did not, both as the class and for them personally in their work here.
- Reflect on and share what YOU as Instructor learned teaching the course.
- How has your knowledge and skills grown over the course of the semester. Where are they now versus where they started?
- What is the single biggest insight students have gained over the course of the semester?
- Students’ concluding remarks. After providing your own remarks, ask for theirs.
- Show illustrations or list of famous people who majored in the subject and how they used their skills in this area in their careers.
- How will students apply their new knowledge and skills to their personal goals & futures—both in future classes and beyond?
- How will students use this info to fix the ills of our society?
- Thank students for their contributions to the course and ask them to share what they learned from each other.
- Hold an ‘open Q&A’ where students can ask any questions they’d like (possibly excepting questions about religion, or politics).
- Ball State University Ofc of Educational Excellence – “Teaching Tip: Ending a Course” http://cms.bsu.edu/about/administrativeoffices/educationalexcellence/resources/teachingtips/ending
- UC Berkeley Center for Teaching & Learning- “Last day of Class”
- Stanford Teaching Commons: “School’s out! Almost. Strategies for the Last Day of Class – https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/teaching-talk/school%E2%80%99s-out-almost-strategies-last-day-class