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The end of the semester has a reputation for sneaking up on teachers and students alike. While the students are busy with finals and term papers, teachers can be equally preoccupied with finishing the course, submitting grades, and filing paperwork. But we shouldn’t forget to stop and try to make sense of all the ground we’ve covered in the last few months. Here are some tips on making the most of the last week of classes:

 

  • Engage students in reflection: Take the last class to reflect on the syllabus with your students.
    • Ask them how well each topic was covered, what they were most interested in or excited about, and what they noticed in their own learning. Focus on the large concepts and goals of the course. Ask students how they feel about where they are now compared with the beginning of the semester.
    • Push them to articulate the connections they’ve found between topics within the course or between the course and their other coursework or their lives.
    • Share what you’ve learned from teaching this course with the students; have they changed any of your outlooks in the course of the semester?
    • You might consider asking some of the students to write letters to future students in this course. How can they get the most out of it? What was the most challenging aspect and how could they best benefit from this?
  • Point to the future: help your students understand that their learning and benefit from your course need not end after the final.
    • Remind your students, as they continue working on those end of term papers and projects, to think of these assignments as potential portfolio material for themselves. These assignments could have a future beyond the grade they’ll receive in this class and go toward their future professional development.
    • Encourage them to learn from this semester; not just the goals of this course, but from the habits they’ve discovered as students, so they can apply what they’ve learned about themselves as students to courses they take in the future.
    • For those interested in continuing their education in this area, compile a suggested reading list from your own bookshelf on the materials covered. Encourage interest in pursuing the questions you’ve been asking.
  • Celebrate: You and your students have bonded over this last semester, and it can be fun and satisfying to discuss what you’ve all learned in a more relaxed setting. Whether you go to a meal together or bring treats to share in class, this is a nice final touch for a course. Don’t forget to thank your students for their contributions and engagement with the course!
  • Think ahead: It might be the end of one semester, but this is the perfect time to plan for your next course.
    • Set aside 30 minutes to reflect and write yourself notes on changes you’d like to make next time you teach this course, while it’s still fresh in your mind.
    • Mark up your syllabus – or better yet, update it now – to reflect those classes and assignments that worked best, and those that could use revision.

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