Ideas for the last week of class

Congratulations: the hay is mostly in the barn, as one of my coaches used to say. But what to do with the final session? We often–myself included–end with a whimper rather than a bang: we’re tired, the students are tireder (and often have big deadlines on that day), no one has read anything new. But giving in to this inertia misses out on a valuable opportunity for synthesis and/or speculation about where the ideas you’ve wrestled with might go in the future.

Our English colleague Paul McPherron has an excellent video (via ACERT, Hunter’s center for teaching and learning, which he directs) that describes his strategy. Paul has students collaborate on a visualization of the course’s content, posting small notes on the blackboard or wall, and arranging them in ways that emphasize the connections linking the various elements of the course:

ACERT Teaching Hack – Finishing Strong

In this Teaching Hack, Paul McPherron (English) discusses his end-of-semester activity that encourages students to reflect on what they’ve learned throughout the course. This activity prompts students to think about what they might want to take with them into their future studies and careers, and it gives Paul feedback as to what they liked most about the course and what could be improved.

I also recommend an article that Paul alludes to, James Lang’s “Finishing Strong” from the Chronicle.

As for me, I ply students with food and drink when possible, and I often have them give tiny, informal “lightning talks” based on their final research projects. I find that this no-stakes approach (I don’t grade them on this) allows students to get a sense of each other’s work and to feel like they’re part of a scholarly community (however evanescent); it also encourages them to focus on the process of research and especially the tendency of research to stir up new ideas for further research. Here’s my prompt along these lines for my last session this term.

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