Managing the End of the Semester

By Peter Connor

How to Avoid Hitting the Panic Button

Do you ever feel like your back is up against the wall at the end of the semester? You haven’t got all the material you intended to cover covered. Your course syllabus spells out X amount but you’re not quite there yet. It’s a race against time. There are only a few class periods left. You start jamming like there’s no tomorrow. Your main objective: cover the remaining content.

The Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota offers an alternative. Rather than trying to cover that last bit of content, refocus those last few days on providing review sessions. Get with your students and go over that which you have covered, where you’ve taken them, and how far they’ve come.

A few strategies include:

  • Having your students create a concept map of the course
  • Having them create thematic or topical collages illustrating the course
  • Revisiting early in-class writing assignments, or other early work
  • Partnering/grouping students to discuss how their thinking has changed over the semester
  • Discussing critical moments (highlights, insights surprises, etc.) in the course
  • Beginning review discussions with open ended questions:
    • What’s the most important thing you’ve learned?
    • How will you apply what you’ve learned?
  • Grouping students to collaborate on one or two typical exam questions:
    • Analyze this…
    • Synthesize that…
    • Apply what you’ve learned to solving…
  • Swapping questions above between groups so them may collaborate on the answers
  • Having your students review your syllabus goals and objectives and then engage in some self-assessment on how well they've done and what needs study before the final exam

The information above is derived from The Final Class Sessions: Providing Closure found on the University of Minnesota’s Center for Teaching and Learning Center Web site.

Sources:

Final class sessions: Providing closure (CLT Teaching Guides: University of Minnesota). Retrieved from http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/resources/jit/jit-end/closure/

Contributors:

Thanks to Dr. Erica Suchman, Assoc. Prof. in the Dept. of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology and Master Teacher Initiative (MTI) Coordinator for the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University for this Teaching Tip suggestion.