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Ending on a High Note: Suggestions for Bringing Closure to a Course

Most of us agree that the first day of class is important in terms of setting the tone and creating a positive learning environment. The last day(s) is equally important and can provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their learning. Given that an ending is not necessarily the same as closure, and that many students and teachers leave with unanswered questions or unchecked emotions, the following are suggestions for making the last day of class as memorable as the first.

  • If students set goals at the onset of class, have them revisit these goals and share in small groups how well they accomplished their goals and how they did so.
  • Share what you learned about teaching and/or the subject matter with your students.
  • Provide self-addressed envelopes and ask students to write you a letter in a few months telling you one or two things they learned and have actually used.
  • Because students tend to hear advice from each other better than from the instructor, ask students to write a letter to someone who will take the course. In the letter, have them share strategies that were worthwhile, those that caused problems and give advice on how best to succeed in the course. Share their advice with subsequent classes or randomly give these letters to participants of the next class.
  • Ask students to bring to class magazines that they are willing to cut up, scissors and glue. In groups have them create a collage that depicts the main ideas covered in the course. Have each group explain their collage to the class.
  • One or two weeks before the class ends, have each student write a "Letter to the Teacher." Provide questions for them to answer in the letter. Follow with a letter to the class telling them what you learned from their letters. Questions to ask might include:
    • How has your approach to the subject matter changed during this course?
    • How do you feel you have performed in this class?
    • What would you do differently if you had a chance to take this class over again?
    • What advice would you give a friend if they had to take this course to help him/her do well?
    • How has this course helped you develop as an emerging professional?
    • What strategies, activities, assignments, etc., best fit your learning style have and helped you learn the most?
  • Have the students pretend that the class was a movie. Have each student (or in small groups) title the movie and write a review.
  • Use a game such as Jeopardy or Hollywood Squares to review for the final exam.
  • Provide students with a scenario, such as the following: "Your best friend has approached you and states that she has to take this course. She can't take the class from anyone else and she needs the class to graduate. What advice will you give your friend to help her succeed in this class?" (For more information on this see Cooperative Learning and College Teaching, Vol.6, Fall 1995, 11-13)
  • In a physiology course (or other applicable course), a week or so ahead of the last class, have groups of students randomly pick out of a hat or box, slips of paper with different organ systems. On the last day have each student perform a skit using any props representing his/her organ system and have the other students try to guess what organ system they are portraying. Or have the students make a game of "physiology pictionary." (Mierson@UDel.Edu)
  • Pose a question on the first day of class, such as "What is philosophy?" Give the students approximately fifteen minutes to answer the question in writing. Provide them with an envelope and ask them to put their response in the envelope, seal it and write their name on the outside. On the last day of class, ask the same question and provide them with time to write their answer again. Hand back their original response and have them compare in groups what they had learned and how their views changed during the semester. (rmwilkin@umich.edu)
  • Have students call out topics covered in the class and list these on the board while all students write them down. Have students discuss with a partner what the most personally valuable topics were for them and why. If time allows, have pairs join other pairs and share their responses. Students can also share with the class their most valuable discoveries/rediscoveries and what changes they would recommend for improving the course.

-Tracy Price, Center for Teaching Excellence

References

Bassendowski, S. "How to End Courses With a Bang." The Teaching Professor. 9.5 (1995): 1-2.

"What to Do on the Last Day of Class." Teaching at UNL. 19.3 (1997): 3.

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