Intentional Closure: A Path to Student Accountability

By Peter Connor

Do your students expect to be provided a guide at the beginning of the semester summarizing all of the important things they are going to be tested on by the end of the semester? A handy check-list of the course nuts and bolts? Many do. Should you accommodate them? Should you draw a straight line from beginning to end and call it good?

The downside of providing an upfront study guide is that it lifts the burden of deciding what's important and what's not from the students' shoulders; so too, perhaps, the joy of discovery. In Tomorrow’s Professor—(Msg. #1060)—Lucas (2010) describes an alternative technique called: "Intentional Closure" with which she ends each class session.

I ask students to compose two questions about the day's lesson at the end of each class. Students present their questions at the beginning of the following class to initiate discussion and confirm the previous lecture's essential information.

Composing the questions compels students to review and summarize what was provided during class. It is also an effective closure activity, with all students focused on reviewing the day's information rather than simply packing their bags and chatting.

This technique leads to diligent note-taking. The students are accustomed to how each class session will end and their in-class notes serve as preparation. Some are asked to read their questions out loud. This helps the rest of the class recognize some of the important take-aways from the day’s lesson.

Of those that are read out loud, some are entered into the lesson-plan book to be asked at the beginning of the next session. Students are expected to respond, briefly, in writing. These can be graded in a number of ways: sometimes all, sometimes randomly selected students. It keeps everyone on their toes.

Personal accountability improves, along with retention, and, in the process, everyone engages in creating their own class notebook, their own study guide. To read the full article, please visit Tomorrow’s Professor Msg. #1060: Awake, Accountable, and Engaged.

Sources:

Lucas, L. J. (2010). Awake, Accountable, and Engaged. In R. Reis (Ed.), Tomorrow’s Professor. Retrieved from http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/cgi-bin/tomprof/posting.php?ID=1060

Contributors:

Thanks to Dr. Ken Barbarick, Prof. in the Dept. of Soil Sciences and Master Teacher Initiative (MTI) Coordinator for the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University for this Teaching Tip suggestion.

Peter Connor - TILT Web Content Writer and Editor