Your Last Class

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

As a teaching assistant, how your last class will be designed will often be dependent on the aims of the instructor for the class and the role that you have played throughout the year. In some cases, the instructor you are working with will have specific requirements for your final session with the students, while in other cases you may be given the opportunity to design some of your own tutorial sessions.

If you are given specific guidelines for the final class or lab with your students, then it is your job to ensure the instructor’s objectives are met. Sometimes those objectives are precise and detailed and sometimes they are more flexible. The question becomes, how do you meet those objectives? And if you have your own objectives – for example –how do you ensure those objectives are met?

How you design your last class or last sessions will depend on your objectives and the objectives of the instructor. As a result, the form and content of any class or tutorial 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: (and there are all sorts of blogs and other sources online that can provide you with additional tips).

For me, the last few sessions of any class or tutorial are designed to focus on reviewing the material and having the students reflect on their learning. This is an opportunity to assess student learning in advance of the final exam, to address any perceived gaps in the learning or student concerns and as well to show the students how far they have come during the semester. 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.

As an instructor, throughout the term I try to “connect the dots” for the students. I try to show them how the respective concepts or ideas that are articulated on a weekly basis relate to each other or to a broader set of course themes. I don’t wait until the last class to make the connections and I don’t wait until the end of the semester to have my TAs support the students in connecting concepts and themes. Both my TAs and I regularly spend time in our classes helping the students see the bigger picture. So, in the final weeks and last class, the students are familiar with the “big ideas” and are familiar with the way we seek to have them think across classes. In the last class, then, we simply review those big ideas.

This might not work for everyone, but there are ways for tutorials to fit with the broader class themes or support the instructor’s learning objectives. You could create a glossary of terms or equations that are central to the class – and create it over the semester – so that it becomes a living document. Maybe have the students create and edit the glossary and so it becomes a student created document and thus gives them more ownership over their own learning. Of course, monitoring for accuracy is important, but you can also have the students play a role in this.

You could also have the student create their own review questions. This can be done in groups or individually and then you can have them answer their own review questions. This provides you as the TA with some insights into student learning and helps you to see where it is that you might be able to offer additional support.

Overall, the key to the last class (or last few classes) is to provide some closure and resolution to the semester. And of course, remember to enjoy this class and say thanks to the students for being part of their learning processes.