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Adapted from the Kaneb Center workshop titled “Building Better Bookends: Making the Most of the First and Last Days of Your Class”. This workshop was offered by Kristi Rudenga, Assistant Director of the Kaneb Center on November 15, 2017.
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“For many, the last day of class comes and goes without ceremony, yet it provides an opportunity to bring the student-teacher experience to a close in a way that students appreciate and enjoy” (Lucas and Bernstein, 2005).The last day of class is the favorable time for students to reflect on what they have learned so far. So it’s important to have a good closure for courses so that students can synthesize and retain the knowledge they have gained thus far.

Below are a variety of useful techniques that can make sure that the last class day is a finale and not a fizzle.

[1] Reinforce long-term learning

  • Revisit course goals
  • Suggest strategies for effective studying for final
  • Activity:
    • Working in pairs, have students answer: “You’ve got an interview for your dream job. The interviewer, who may become your boss, is looking at your transcript and says, ‘Oh, I see you took “insert course name”. Tell me what you learned in that course.’”
    • Refine your answer together and share as a lead-in to a class discussion and review of important concepts

[2] Reflect on content and process

  • Ask for some reflection as preparation for last class
    • Activity: ask students to share a “Performative Reflection” (Hull), in any format other than an essay, with the rest of the class.
  • Have students write letters to future students
  • Collect feedback for yourself: Discuss aspects of the course that were most and least conducive to learning.

[3] Make large-scale connections among course topics

  • Spend time explicitly building connections
  • Activity: Minute thesis:
    • Develop brief theses connecting different aspect of course content
  • Activity: Connections Web
    • As a class, determine 3-4 main themes that ran through the whole class.
    • Distribute a circle of course topics; Have student pairs draw and label as many connections as possible on paper circle
    • Take turns sharing connections on a blackboard with brief explanations
    • Have each student write a way they saw themes play out on a color-coded sticky note
    • Stick notes on the topic they refer to.

[4] Make large-scale connections with other classes, life, and careers

  • Ask students to situate skills and content from your course within their larger curriculum and goals
  • Point them to resources that may serve them well in the future
  • Activity:
    • Have students create concept maps of what they know in their major so far, highlighting contributions of the current class

[5] Bid Students Farewell

  • Thank them for their engagement
  • Acknowledge what you’ve learned from them
  • Don’t be afraid to show emotion if you’re so inclined
  • Time of celebration and ritual

Citation
Lucas, S. and Bernstein, D. (2005). Teaching Psychology: a step by step guide. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Further Reading
[1] Love, B. (2013). Finishing Strong: End-of-Class Review to Improve Relationships, Measurement, and Learning Outcomes. College Teaching 61: 151-152.
[2] Uhl, C. (2005). The last class. College Teaching 53(4): 165-166.
[3] Maier, Mark H. and Ted Panitz. “End on a High Note: Better Endings for Classes and Courses.” College Teaching 44.4 (1996): 145-148.

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