Making the Most of the Last Day of Class

Often professors see the last day of class as a chance to clear up the unfinished business of a course, passing back papers, preparing students for the final exam, administering course evaluations etc. While these activities are important, the last day of class can also be an opportunity for students to reflect on and fully synthesize what they have learned in the course and to understand how they  might further their studies.  Here are some suggestions for activities you can use on the last day of class to help with these activities:  

Help students to realize a sense of accomplishment by:

  • Returning to the course learning objectives/learning outcomes stated in the syllabus. Together reflect on when and how these objectives/outcomes were pursued.
  • Asking students to revisit the goals they set for themselves at the beginning of the course (what did students hope/want/expect to learn as a result of taking the course). How they accomplished their goals and the outcome of accomplishing their goals. Ask students to discuss their accomplishments in small groups or write them down and pass them in to you.

Help students to synthesize what they have learned in the course by:

  • Asking students to create a flow chart to illustrate relationships between/among concepts learned in the course (this is more effective as a collaborative exercise).
  • Having students work in groups to construct a crossword puzzles using key concepts from the course. Exchange puzzles among groups for solving.
  • Asking students to write a letter to someone who will take the course next semester. Ask them to prove the following: A general introduction to the course, describe strategies worked and those that caused problems, and offer advice for succeeding in the course. Provide them with envelopes that they can seal and assure them that you will deliver them randomly to students at the start of the next semester.

Help students to realize how they can build on what they’ve learned by:

  • Discussing your own research and/or an area of currently active research, to remind them of how much there is still to learn in the field.
  • Talking about opportunities for undergraduate research.
  • Discussing how they might further their studies in the field.

If some or all of the time in the last class is allotted to reviewing the course content in preparation for the final exam, make it fun by:

  • Using a team game format (e.g. Jeopardy) as an exam review tool. Give prizes (like candy).
  • Breaking students into groups of two or three and administering a team test to review for the exam. This provides students with an opportunity to discuss the material before agreeing on the answers to the questions, thus giving them an idea of what they know and areas where they need to concentrate in studying for the exam.

 

References:

Gross Davis, B. (1993). Tool for teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Murray, S. (2008, October). A bang not a whimper: Twelve ways to engage students on the last day of class. Presentation at the AAU Teaching Showcase Conference.St. John, New Brunswick.

The last day of class. (2006, November). New Faculty Teaching Newsletter (13). Office of Educational Development, University of California at Berkeley. Retrieved online on March 4, 2009 at: http://teaching.berkeley.edu/newsletters0607/newsletter13.html