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In the flurry of final exams, papers, and projects, it’s easy to let plans for the last day of class slip through the cracks. But the final class day presents a perfect opportunity for both you and your students to reflect on what you learned, consider its future applications, and recognize your achievements over the course of the semester. Below are some suggestions for how to get the most out of your final class meeting. 

Look Back

It’s important for students to reflect on and articulate what they’ve learned in class not only because it provides good review for final exams, papers, and projects but also because synthesizing and consolidating learning can increase retention. On the last day of class, revisit your course goals with students and consider how they’ve been fulfilled over the past several months. Ask students, either in individual writing, small group discussion, or a class conversation, to identify their main takeaways from the course and articulate the significance of what they’ve learned. 

The end of class also provides a good opportunity for you and your students to think about what worked in the course and what didn’t. Ask students to reflect on their own learning process and to think about their best and worst moments in the course. What have they learned about their own learning? This is also a good time to reflect on and make some notes about your teaching: what worked and what didn’t? If you could redo the course, what would you change?

Look Forward

The final class day also provides an opportunity for you and your students to look forward. Use the last class day to think not only about ways to improve teaching and learning going forward but also about the ramifications of students’ learning for their future. You might ask students to brainstorm about how what they’ve learned this semester will play a part in their daily lives or consider how it will help them succeed in future classes or careers. What will students do with the knowledge they’ve gained in the course? You can also use the time to answer lingering questions that the class has raised for students or talk to them about future directions in the field they’ve been studying for the past several months. Revisit some of the big questions of the course and think with students about their significance going forward.

Celebrate

Finally, give yourself and your students permission to celebrate your achievements over the course of the semester. This doesn’t mean you should throw a party. But it can be good to take time to recognize in some way the mutual effort you’ve put into the course. The celebration doesn’t have to be a grand gesture: simply thanking your students for their participation in the class or taking a moment to mutually share positive thoughts about the experience can make a big impact.

It can be difficult to carve out time to wrap up your course properly. But taking an hour or so to look back, look forward, and celebrate the semester can help you and your students end the course, and the year, on a high note. 

 

Further Reading

Bleicher, Elizabeth. (2011). The last class: Critical thinking, reflection, course effectiveness, and student engagement. Honors in Practice, 7, 39-52. 

Boucquey, N. C. (2014). School’s out! Almost. Strategies for the last day of class. Stanford Teaching Commons.

Dietz-Uhler, B., & Lanter, J. R. (2009). Using the four-questions technique to enhance learning. Teaching of Psychology, 36(1), 38-41.

Last Day of Class,” Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning.

Maier, Mark H., & Panitz, Ted. (1996). “End on a High Note: Better Endings for Classes and Courses.” College Teaching, 44(4), 145-148.

Uhl, C. (2005). The last class. College Teaching, 53(4), 165-166.

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