Your Last Class

Author: Dr. Heather Smith (Director, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology and Professor, International Studies)

Well, you’ve made it to the end of term. Your last class is upon you…and the students. Hopefully, all you sought to cover has been covered and you’ve met your course objectives, and therefore the last class can be used as a time to bring some closure.

How you design your last class or last sessions will depend on your objectives. As a result, the form and content of any class can vary widely depending on your objectives. Check out the discussion on a Berkley website on ‘their last class’ to get a sense of the diverse approaches: http://teaching.berkeley.edu/what-do-last-day-class (and there are all sorts of blogs and other sources online that can provide you with additional tips).

Some ‘last class’ techniques …starting from day one:

For me, planning for the last class begins, oddly enough, on the first day of classes when I hand out the syllabus. In the syllabus I outline the requirement for the final exam (assuming I’ve giving one…I don’t always give final exams) and discuss it briefly. I always tell the students that the skills they develop throughout the course will be applied in the final exam.

My course outline also includes course objectives. I indicate to the students that at the end of the class they should, for example, be able to understand the connections between Canada, Canadians and other peoples. I also state that students will engage in critical thinking. Right from the beginning of class, I know what I want to achieve at the end of the class.

Sometimes, in the first class, I have students write a paragraph or two on their expectations  of  the  class.  I tell students we will return  to  these paragraphs at the end of term. This works well for all types of students. It  provides  a  means  for  them  to  measure  whether  or  not  their expectations were met and it allows them to see their own learning.

In other classes, I do quizzes on the first day to test some general knowledge. Included in the quizzes are references to topics that will be covered in class. I tell them we will do the quiz again at the end of the term – again this is an opportunity for the students to reflect on their learning.

If you have taught the class previously, it might be easier to prepare for the last class because you are able to weave key themes – that will be subject  to  assessment  –into  the  lectures.  Throughout the term I  try  to connect  the dots‘  for  the  students. They  then understand  how oneweek‘s lectures are  connected to the next  and  how  one  section  of the course  is connected to the next. I don‘t wait until the last class  to make all the connections; I make those connections throughout the course. I also regularly have the students ‘connect the dots’ throughout the class through various assignments and class activities. This  may,  in  the  minds  of  some,  make  the  final  exam  questions predictable, but it all  comes  back  to the question:  ―what  do  you want your  class  to learn?‖ I believe we  have  an  obligation  to be  clear  in our expectations and to clearly map out the course for the students, from beginning to end.