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Metaphorically, if each student has a bucket that he or she progressively fills with knowledge throughout the semester while learning in your course, is it not important for that student to keep the contents of that bucket even after the course is over?  Undoubtedly, most instructors would shudder at the idea of students walking out of the final exam, tipping over their buckets, and pouring its contents onto the sidewalk, never to be used again.  Therefore, we should aim for student learning to have a lasting impact and for those buckets to stay filled for as long as possible.

 

After sharing a semester together, undoubtedly both you and your students have learned a great deal from one another.  Although the last day of class is often filled with student presentations, final exam review, or maybe even some last minute housekeeping details, you may wish to incorporate some end-of-semester activities, which will allow you to assess (1) to what degree students have filled their metaphorical buckets, (2) with what, and (3) how long they think they will maintain its contents.

 

According to Fink (2003), “For learning to occur, there has to be some kind of change in the learner.  No change, no learning.  And significant learning requires that there be some kind of lasting change that is important in terms of the learner’s life” (p. 34).  Teaching What You Don’t Know” (Huston, 2009) and Teaching With Your Mouth Shut” (Finkel, 2000) suggest that one last day of class activity to consider is asking students what they will remember from your class in five years.  Interestingly, students and instructors may not see eye-to-eye on what were the primary take-away messages for the course.  Thus, this is another way to gauge whether your learning goals for students were achieved and whether students perceived them as having a lasting impact.

 

There are other interesting questions you could ask students on the last day to facilitate discussion and to assess student learning, such as:

  • Have you changed your opinions or views as a result of this course?  Why or why not?
  • Complete the following sentences: One thing I was surprised to learn in this course is __________________.  I was surprised to learn this because __________________.
  • If you could share one idea from this course with others, what would it be, and why?

 

And finally, some additional resources worth checking out:

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