What should you do on the last day of class?

Apr 11, 2017

What should you do on the last day of class?

The last day of class is an exciting, challenging and critical day for students and faculty.  But what should be done when a class is ending?  We asked some of our faculty and staff how they handle the end of a course.

Dr. Tom Carskadon

“In many of my classes, the last day of class is a test, so about all I can do is give the test and then tell them how proud I am of them and what a privilege it has been to teach them. In one of my small classes, however, my last day of class is when they turn in a major, 25-35 page take-home test that they have known about from the very first day of class, as it is part of their syllabus. Still, for almost all the students, the night before has been a very long and stressful night. I pick an unusually enjoyable and memorable topic and demonstration for the last class. Then when we are down with that, besides telling them how proud of them I am and what a pleasure it has been to teach them, I play an old game called ‘Johnny Carson.” (First, I have to explain to them who Johnny Carson was, and his sidekick Ed McMann.) Ed used to come out before the show began and warm up the audience. Then, when the climactic moment came, he would always say “And NOW, heeeeere’s JOHNNY! At that point Johnny Carson would stride onto the stage, and the crowd would go wild with applause. I ask my class to stand in a circle. I tell them how much I have enjoyed them, and I tell them that I think each and every one of them deserves a standing ovation. Then I go around the circle one by one, and lead each student into the center, As I do so, I say, “Heeeeere’s  Susie” or “Heeeeere’s  Ben,” let them enjoy the group’s applause, return them to the outside of the circle, and bring in the next student, until each and every student has been recognized. The clapping is continuous once we begin, and it intensifies when I lead each student to the center of the circle. It only takes about five minutes. Everyone leaves the course wide awake, all smiles, and feeling great!”

Dr. Kelly Marsh:

“In nearly every class I teach, the students have a paper due on the last day of class, which I collect as class begins.  This gives students a sense of closure, and I make the most of the relief they feel at handing in those last papers by using the first fifteen minutes of class for the student evaluations (which they complete while I am out of the room and put into the hands of one of their classmates).  Then, I orient our attention toward our actual last class meeting: we spend the hour we have left reviewing for the final exam.  I divide the class into groups, assign each group a topic, and ask them to study their class notes on that topic together and generate exam questions based on their notes.  As each group shares their questions with the whole class, I comment on them, indicating which I would definitely use, which I would not use and why, and which could be framed in alternative ways and how. This process helps students to realize how much they have learned and gives them a sense of control over the material, and it gives me the opportunity to ascertain how much of what I intended to communicate made it into their notes, which helps me the next time I teach the class.”

Prof. Michael Seymour:

“In the History of Landscape Architecture class I teach, I have for many years held a debate on the last day of class. I build this up for weeks beforehand. The debate is about New Urbanism and a colleague of mine (Taze Fulford) is the opponent. We flip a coin to decide which side we’re going to argue. The purpose is to help the students understand the complexities of the issue, but also to help them see that there are design debates occurring today that will become a part of future history courses.  More interestingly for the students, they get to vote on the winner at the end of the debate and we usually ham it up pretty well when the votes come in. We’ve done it enough times that I can’t remember the overall score anymore but I think Taze is beating me. Last year I lost badly; I suspect voting irregularities.

On a more serious note, I think on the last day it’s useful to return to the big picture and also leave the students with a feeling of accomplishment for the work they’ve done.”

Dr. Kris King:

“Due to the nature of online courses regarding asynchronous communication and content delivery, I spend the last 3-4 days of class wrapping up loose ends. Most of the tasks center around communicating with students regarding the last assignments that are due. I am a firm believer in authentic assessments so my final will be a project of some sort which will require more time to grade compared to a traditional test. This means that I must be caught up with all the grading prior to the final project being submitted,

I often spend more time in the last week of class posting to the discussion boards and replying to student emails. Some wait until the last minute to clarify assignment instructions or make their first communication attempts about missed work.  I try to check email more during this time so students are not left waiting for answers as the last days pass.

I would suggest that online instructors make every attempt to be present in their online courses (discussion boards, course announcements, and email) the last 5-7 days of the class. The time delay that accompanies asynchronous communication could really impact the students' progression on the last assignments or final project.

Make your online presence known and be vigilant in grading and providing feedback on the last assignments going into the final assessment.”

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