End Of Semester Reflection Essays On English Class


The following responses were obtained from list members based upon my Question "How do you end your class/course".  My initial e-mail posting is presented first to establish the tone of the discussion followed by the list members responses.

Hi Listers,

A few years ago I initiated a discussion about how to end a course and/or class which resulted in many interesting ideas. This internet discussion lead to an article titled "Ending On A High Note: Better Endings For Classes And Courses", by M. Meier & T. Panitz in College Teaching, Fall 1996. I thought it would be fun to revisit this question since we are approaching the end of another semester, and with new members on the various lists it would be interesting to see what new ideas have been developed since the last discussion.

What techniques or approaches do you use to end your course in an interesting way (other than or in addition to giving a final exam)?

Please respond to the list to help generate a discussion. I will compile the responses and send them to respondents and interested list members. Thanks in advance for your responses.

Ted       tpanitz@cape.com
I ask my students to write a "self evaluation" at the end of each semester in all my classes. It is intended to have the students reflect on their performance and behavior in the class. It is not intended to be a class or instructor evaluation since these are done officially by the administration. Some of their comments do reflect their evaluation of the class but they generally focus upon how the class procedures have influenced them. This assignment provides me with some interesting insights into students' thinking and reaction to my cooperative learning approaches.

This assignment is also used to have them think about how they will approach their next math class and to encourage them to make changes needed to help insure their success in future classes. The responses are very candid as you shall see in the responses which follow.

Not all the responses are positive but this reflects the honest and personal nature of my relationship with the students which comes from using cooperative learning techniques throughout the semester. I emphasize that I am never offended by what students write if they are being honest and constructive. To me developing this relationship with my students is as important if not more so than simply making sure students have covered the course content.

Most students comments are positive about the class and my techniques and I see this as a testimonial to the nature of cooperative learning which allows me to express myself and show the students my human side as well as allowing me to get to know each of my students on a much higher level than just finding out about their academic capabilities.











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"Before taking this class I had negative attitudes towards math. I did not understand too much and focused little on learning it. However, my thinking has begun to change. I am able to figure out problems that I once thought were too complicated to complete. You made the atmosphere one in which it was fun to learn. I feel that my performance has improved as a result of this. Students were able to communicate and work through problems together. The grades I received were higher than any other math course I have been in. I was happily surprised."

"My approach to math has changed during this course. Previously I would not have bothered picking up the book outside of class to study. I would beging the day with a lecture and then try to learn from that. But now I am willing to do my part in order to understand the material, and it has worked."

"Overall I would have to say that the laid back, conversational and non-threatening way the course was structured seemed to help me overcome some of my preconceived notions about math. The course was set up in such a way that made learning a little more fun than in previous math classes. Also, being able to converse openly to my neighbor, or the teacher, if I had a problem, certainly helped me feel relaxed, non-threatened, and at ease if I ever had trouble finding an answer to a problem. I had a feeling that if I ever had a problem I could go to the teacher or a student and I could troubleshoot or dig until I got the information I needed. The uninhibited atmosphere in the classroom made me feel that no matter how difficult a particular problem was to grasp, I could use the resources available to me in the classroom without feeling intimidated. Being less intimidated meant that I could ask more and more questions until I got the information that I needed to succeed.

"I think I performed rather well in the class but I felt I could have done better. If I had done more of the problems in the book I may have gotten a better grasp of the material. I think, however, that I did a very good job considering my circumstances of having a full time job a family and taking another course (general chemistry)."

"Prior to my entrance in this class my experience with math has been a struggle. I have learned from this class that math can be enjoyable if you make it a group process. I gained a lot of experience from working closely with the students at my table. I never felt alone, like another face in the classroom. My wish is that I find another open-minded professor that will allow me to continue to learn in the same manner.

"My attitude to mathemetics has changed with this class. I do not perceive math to be something I just do not "get" any more. I come away with the knowledge that in order for me to comprehend math I need to get explanations from multiple sources. I cannot learn from a book nor can I learn from just one instructor, I need multiple sources of instruction."

"I feel my performance in this class was fair. I was lax in doing my homework and for that alone I feel my performance could have improved. I was, however, very instrumental in my groups learning process. I served two purposes there: 1. I helped others grasp what I knew when they were having difficulties; 2. When I was lacking in understanding I helped to re-enforce their knowledge by having them explain their perspective to me."

"What can you do to make this course better? Well, I am grateful to you for developing your techniques. I was able to grow because of it. But, I feel that a more regular pattern of homework expectancy from you would allow DE students to further cement the practices needed for future college level courses. I realize it is not your job to baby-sit, but the DE students are here to re-learn (or learn for the first time) proper math habits."

"My approach to math has not changed during this course. I'm pretty much set in my ways. My attitude toward math has definitely not changed. I still dislike it. I try and try but it seems to take me a little longer than the rest of the class. I did spend a great amount of time this semester in the math lab, which helped me some. I don't think I could have gotten by without the help of Joyce, my table partner. Joyce spent extra time with me helping me understand that one problem, or word problem. But I can honestly say that I pretty much dislike math. My performance was average. I've always felt that if your heat is into it, you can accomplish anything. If your heart ins't into it, you are only going to do average or worse. I know that I could have done better, but my whole heart wasn't into it. How could you do great ion something you don't like. I get by because I have to. I didn't have a choice. I have to take math to be where I want to be, so I simply bear with it. As for my future plans I hope to finish my math requirements to graduate, then hopefully never see it again. But I know that sooner or later it will find me again. I would like to thank you again for a great semester. I wish things were done a little differently, but on the whole it was a fun, good learning experience."

Ann Boyce

(1) Have them do a portfolio containing an early piece of work from the class and the work they are most proud of accompanied by a discussion of why they chose the work they are proudest of (grade cannot be a criteria) and what, if anything, they learned from the class. I tell them this is NOT an evaluation of me because it is a graded assignment and were they to evaluate me, it would be asking them to brown-nose. Instead I ask them to discuss what they learned.

(2) The last day of class they write their final. I ask them each to write 2- 3 questions that fairly assess what we have covered during the class. They work in groups to pool and refine questions and then we work as a class. In the 2 years I have done this, I've found their questions are sometimes better than the ones I'd ask, but virtually always on what I consider key points. I'd say that's good.
Daryl Stephens

In a similar vein to Ted's self-evaluation, I give the following to my developmental math classes near the end of the semester. They get 10 points out of a possible 10 as a quiz grade just by turning it in and showing some thought:
Think back over how you studied for this math class this semester. Describe some things you did that you found helped you and allowed you to succeed. If you found you did some things that were not helpful to you, describe those. If another student were to ask you what kinds of study habits would be helpful for this class, what would you say? This doesn't need to be a long paper, but please do write at least a good paragraph. You may write it here, or on notebook paper, or type it, or do it on a computer, or e-mail it to me.
I got some interesting responses. One student said that he learned he should not take classes that start at 8:15 A.M. because he can't regularly get out of bed to be in class on time. (If I remember correctly, he's in the same class again this semester!)
This time around I'll ask students permission to quote (anonymously) from their papers to compile a list of things to do or not to do to help students in future classes.
Jody Fernandez

At the beginning of the semester I have my students write a short autobiography focusing on their reading experiences. I hand it back at the end of the semester and ask them to write again, reflectingon if and how they have changed as readers. I also request that they add three suggestions for success for the next class - which I share. I teach developmental reading.
Julie Bradby

Hi All as a tutor in Languages and Literacies to undergrad 1st year teachers. I have them to my place for coffee, show them what a professional library consists of and take them to the local school [ 40 pupils] for a chat to the principal and time to read their favourite books to students..it is in the country so it has a lovely...warm fuzzy feeling to the end.. I am a real teacher too on leave from school and studying too so I know what these students need NOW! More ideas please.
Nancy J. Melucci

I end my course by requesting written feedback on the course (this is optional and strives to be anonymous.) I also provide food for the last  class. Bagels/muffins in the morning, pizza in the evening. I feel it's important to share a meal of some kind in celebration of a successful learning experience. I ask them to complete a feedback sheet of my own design featuring questions on whether or not they liked different activities, topics, etc. I don't really like to wait for the college's numerically-based teacher
evaluations. Students are usually pretty up front about the feedback. I tell them that criticism should be constructive - not just "it sucks" but why they did not enjoy a particular activity or topic and what can be done to  improve it (in their estimation.)
"Ellie McKinnon"

Got an ending for a tutor training course that might interest you.We're planning on creating a training video. We have done this before but the video we created is becoming dated . We anticipate creating a 30 minute tape to replace it.
Hilary Rosenthal

I haven't done it yet, but I am planning to end my course by having current students write letters to next year's students with advice on how to do well in the course. This is for a freshman class that is part of a school-within-a-school specialized program, so I don't know how applicable it would be across the board, but it should give kids a chance to reflect back on their experience in a positive way.
Jessica Genco

I write a letter or create a card for the students and mail it approximately one week after the class ends. I basically say that it
was a good class and I wish them well and then give them ways to contact me. They have expressed that they like it.
Ken Weatherbie

At the end of several semesters now, I have been asking my students to pretend that they have just been approached by their best friend, whose welfare they take seriously, and told that he/she must take Dr. Weatherbie's history course next semester. No way out, can't postpone it, can't take it somewhere else, can't take it from someone else, etc., the only thing that fits his/her schedule is Dr. Weatherbie's course.

Then I pose the question to these hardened (and surviving) veterans of a semester's work in my course: What advise are you going to give your best friend that will help him/her do well in my course? I invite my students to write out their advice for five or more minutes as I lleave the room for awhile. If you're interested in the kinds of responses I

get you can get to some from the web page address contained in my signature to this post. It will take you to my homepage where you can click on the "Former Student Advice" link in the matrix. BTW the "PIG" students refer to is a special study guide I prepare and they use. You can read more about the PIG in an article I wrote for the newletter _Cooperative Learning and College Teaching_, Vol. 6 No.1, Fall 1995, pp. 11-13. Student responses provide me useful information about my CL-based course.
Lawrence Gilligan

I do two things on the last day of the quarter:

1.  I give students a sheet of paper with their grades so far.  (Hourly exam grades and quiz/homework grades) This serves two purposes:  1. it is a record-keeping check (in the event I recorded a grade incorrectly, etc) and 2. it clearly lays out what is needed on the final for a particular grade in the course.  This is a cinch to do since all grades are in a spreadsheet and generating a mail merge is a snap.

2.  From an inspirational talk I once heard Howard Eves give, I hand out the following to my students so they might get the bigger picture:

The Scholar's Creed

I believe the knowledge I have received or may receive from teacher and book, does not belong to me;  that it is committed to me only in trust;  that it still belongs and always will belong to the humanity which produced it through all the generations. I believe I have no right to administer this trust in any manner whatsoever that may result in injury to mankind, its beneficiary, on the contrary -- I believe it is my duty to administer it singly for the good of this beneficiary, to the end that the world may become a kindlier, a happier, a better place in which to live.

from The Scholar's Creed

by Dr. John J. Seelman
Linda Houston

One of the techniques I have used in my developmental writing classes to begin the quarter involves brown bags ( the kind we use to pack our lunches...if we don't have a lunch box). I ask students to put "things" in the brown bag that they have brought to class. The objects could be keys, a license, a pen, pictures, money...anything they have with them that doesn't prove embarrassing to them. They exchange bags and then each of the students empties the partner's bag and writes the impression he/she has ofthe partner based on the contents of the bag. No grade. Once that is done, they share with each other...reading to each other, the impressions they had. The partner agrees or disagrees and they share with one another who they really are. Then each person writes about "the new" partner. For homework, I ask each student to go home and write a description of the
partner...looks and personality (so far). I do collect those. It breaks the ice, begins writing, and starts description and revision.
I did get the original idea from a development writing text, but I extended the assignment.
Lynn Meyers

At the conclusion of the semester I have students do a ten minute  portfolio presentation. This consists of students discussing their portfolio but it is not a mere laundry list of what's in it. Students must demonstrate and discuss what they've learned and how they were able to represent it through their portfolio and how they can apply it to other classes or a job. Students can do the presentation any way they choose. I've had students do video presentations, dress up like they were going on a job interview, and I've even had someone do a portfolio rap. This technique allows for self reflection as well as further practice of oral communication skills. Students answer for themselves the question of why they must compile a portfolio.
Maurine Harrison

I always ask the students the following question (I teach psychology & education courses):

How are you changed as a person from taking this course? What will you take with you that will influence the way you live the rest of your life? How are you going to use what you learned "to make a difference" in the world? How has this course helped you develop as an emerging professional?

What strategies, activities, assignments, etc. best fit your learning style and helped you learn the most?

What strategies, activities, assignemtns, etc. were the most ineffective for you?

How could this course be changed to make it better for the students that will take it after you?

If students vote to do it, for evening classes we go out to dinner together

on the last class. I spend a lot of time developing "community" and has been very much appreciated and enjoyed by the classes who voted to do it.

The best professor I ever had was approaching retirement. Her class was a graduate class in Developmental Teaching of Reading. She has studied with Carl Rogers at the University of Chicago (If my memory serves me correctly). She said after her orals for her Ph.D. she want out and threw up for the next 24 hours and decided something that could do that to a person was not a valuable means of assessing competence. Long before graduate students learned through creating professional files, portfolios, teaching sections of the class creatively becoming the expert on some topic and sharing it to others this lady was doing it. Some weeks we would come in and the room would look like a Mexican Fiesta with EVERYTHING you could imagine to teach a kid to read centered around the central theme which was FUN!! (but very hard work to put together). Each week it would be something exciting--she created that with a rather large class. A final exam was scheduled and she even did a review but told us not to "stress out" over it. We had produced SYNERGISTICALLY so much wonderful work and learned so much but still that anxiety about the final was there. About 30 of us arrived at the 8 a.m. class. When we all arrived she gave us walking directions to her house where she served us an "examination breakfast." Quiche, fruit, coffee--the works! It was wonderful except I was too uptight about the psychology exam I had next with a complete jerk who had read from the same notes for years testing on stuff only people who had noted from other years actually got to study. He informed us on the first class that the purpose of graduate school was to "harass the graduate students." No wonder he was a miserable alcoholic, as I found out later. Also, I learned very little from his class except this anecdote of how NOT to teach.

What a juxtapositon, these two professors! The best and the worst!

The professor with the "examination breakfast" has influenced me in my own teaching (NK-12 and now college for many years--what she did too) to this day. I honor her. It was the summer of 1972 and she still influences students through me and many others who were fortunate enough to have had her as a teacher.

One of the best things I ever got from the last class when I ALWAYS query my students as to how the class can be better for the next students to take the class was in the form of a suggestion that was a true winner.

My students worked in a campus lab school with 4 & 5 year olds and each week they met with me for a one hour seminar. The student suggestion was in order for the children to get to know them sooner so that they could establish rapport was for them to do a "Personal Show & Tell" where they would bring in a picture of their family, or the hockey stick they used in their team sports, or their favorite stuffed animal, or their favorite treat to share--whatever--but about 15 minutes of "connecting" with the kids they would spend the semester working with. I encorporated it into my seminar and had them share it with us. I have also used this in other classes. It has proved to be an excellent way to begin establishing community, connections with other students, etc. so that students work together unafraid to be themselves far sooner.
Patricia WIlliams

One of our faculty members has her students pretend that the class was a movie. She has them title the movie and write a review.
Reda, Ellena"

I teach mathematics at the community college level.

At the end of each semester I meet with all of my students individually. At this meeting students present a portfolio that they have prepared which showcases their best works throughout the semester. They are told that "The purpose of portfolio assessment is to have you, the student, take control of your own self assessment and to allow you to demonstrate your strengths." Specific guidelines are given to the students that explain how they might pull together their portfolio and what my minimum requirements are.

In addition to reviewing their portfolio, we also discuss their semester grade. The expectation is that they will tell me what grade they think they are entering the final exam with. They are also expected to be able to justify that grade based on evidence in their portfolio.

In addition the portfolio and scheduled meeting I ask each of my students to prepare written response to the following items. I tell them that I will not read these responses until after I have submitted grades and that I expect them to be honest in their reflection.

Self Analysis (neatly written or word processed) - While working on your portfolio keep in mind why you are taking this course and what you hope to have gained from it. Review the portfolio you will present to me. It presents real tangible evidence of how the semester has progressed. Usethe following as a guide in developing your individual analysis of your time spent in this class. Think back over the semester. Do you feel that you have honestly learned something. What would you consider your
accomplishments in this course? Think about some not so great moments and share those as well. What are some skills you think you have developed over the semester? Did the quality of your work improve as the semester progressed? Did you actively participate in the course? Did you give this class your best or less than your best? Your work is your responsibility. Did you take your responsibilities seriously? Are you taking anything other skills with you from this class that will help you be a better learner in future courses? Did you gain insights about yourself as a college student that might help you be more successful in other courses? Try to honestly reflect on what you feel are some keys elements of your semester.

Grade and Justification (neatly written or word processed) - As part of the assessment process you are to indicate to me the grade that you feel you have earned for the semester. This should obviously be in line with what I have seen and read in your portfolio. Besides indicating your grade, I ask that you clearly justify in writing your rationale for that grade. This grade should be based on fact, not fiction, and should be clearly demonstrated to me in your work. As I stated earlier this semester - the
person who is ultimately responsibility for your grade and your work -- is you.

Portfolio Reaction (neatly written or word processed) - For some, if not all, of you the concept of a portfolio is a new one. I ask that you take a few minutes longer to write several paragraphs giving me your honest reaction to the portfolio experience. A major component and driving force behind my use of the portfolio is the belief in self-assessment. Begin by defining what self-assessment means to you. Did you gain anything from the time spent putting your portfolio together? Did you find the
portfolio worthwhile? Explain why or why not. How did you feel about assigning yourself your grade for the semester? Did you find it difficult to do? relatively easy? How did you arrive at a decision for your grade? You get the general idea of what I am looking for - I want to know how you react to the concept of self assessment.
Christopher Reisch

On the last day of classes I do something very similar to what Lawrence described. On the _first_ day of class I ask students to write me a brief

"Math Autobiography" which is to include goals for the current semester and plans for achieving these goals. I hold these autobiographies throughout the semester and return them to the students on the last day of class when I ask them to write a "Course Reflection." I ask them to read what they wrote at the beginning and describe how their autobiographies have changed now having the semester behind them. On the last day, I also prompt them to give advice (in writing) to the class I will teach during the following semester. "What do you need to do in order to be successful in Chris' class?" I can then take this advice and read it to my class in the

following semester after they have written _their_ autobiographies. "This is what my last class suggests you need to do to be successful in this course."

This works very nicely on many different levels. It seems (my impression) students hang on to advice from other students who have been through a course rather than from me as the instructor, AND it gets the students who have been through the course an opportunity to reflect on what they did or didn't do to be successful. It also seems like a "romantic" way to say goodbye.
Robin Dawes

I always devote the last lecture of the term to proving or exploring some interesting and counter-intuitive result in the field (computer science), related to the course work but not part of the syllabus.For example, in my first-year classes, I usually prove the Halting Problem (we can't test programs for infinite loops). In my second-year classes, I  establish the heirarchy of infinite sets (some sets are more infinite than others).

My goal is to awaken or re-affirm the students' perception that there are wonderful and elegant surprises even in so concrete a field, and to communicate (as if they haven't already been swamped with it) my own enthusiasm for theoretical computer science.

Plus, by doing a proof on the last day of term, it allows me to end my lecture by writing Q.E.D. on the board ... which I then explain to them means "Quite Enough of Dawes"
Sandra Hobson

I used to teach a course in gerontic occupational therapy (OT) - OT with older adults. During the last class I would try to sum up the key issues in treating older adults as opposed to other client populations. They, because OTs try to practice in a client centred way, I would leave the last word to someone taking the older client's perspective on the health care system. I would read aloud (with overheads of the pictures) a story book titled

"You're only old once". It is written by Dr. Seuss, intended for his medical school class at a reunion some 60 years after graduation. It is humourous, as you can imagine, but somehow he buries important messages among the laughs. Students really liked the humour, but also told me how clearly they remembered the messages too. Our curriculum has been revamped and we no longer have a separate course on older adults, but if we did, I'd still end the course that way!
Skip Downing

During the last week of our College Success Seminar, I have a number of activities that have become a tradition. These activities are spread over the 3 hours that the course meets that week:

1. As a course review, students call out the topics we have covered this semester, and I record the list on an overhead transparency while students write them in their journal books.

2. Students now discuss with a partner what the most personally valuable topics were for them and why. Time allowing, I have pairs join another pair, and continue to discuss their choices for personally valuable topics.

3. Next, as feedback for me (and to help cement the review in their memories), students write and I collect their responses to two sentence stems: My most valuable discoveries/rediscoveries in this course include…

Changes I would recommend for improving this course include…

4. Students are now invited to come to the front of the class and speak from the heart (not from notes) about what were their most valuable discoveries/rediscoveries in this course. I ask students to take personal ownership of their discoveries ("I learned…" rather than "What you learn in this class is…"). I video-tape their brief presentations (which I sometimes show at the beginning of the next semester’s class). I play the tape back after class, and students who want to see themselves presenting to the group can stay to watch it. About half stay.

5. Students and I bring food to share for a potluck meal.

6. When the meal is underway, students read their final written projects, and we all applaud.

7. As the final activity, we focus on one person at a time (in my class we do it by going around our circle), and classmates acknowledge that person for contributions he/she has made to them or to the class during the semester. This activity creates laughter and sometimes tears when someone learns what a positive impact his/her actions have had on a classmate.

Here’s the collateral learning I hope these seven steps have:

I want to create a lasting memory of the course information, classmates, and the personal lessons learned. I also want to intertwine in their memories the social/experiential aspect of a learning community. Finally, I want them to remember their power as an individual to impact others, as well as themselves, with their actions and their ideas. I want them to leave believing that who they are, what they know and express, and what they do…matters.
Richard P. Langford"

One interesting trick has been to finish with a class project that uses the

ideas and skills learned in the class. I have adopted an adea of one of my

co-workers and now have the students prepare poster presentations of their results. We use the last couple of class sessions as a forum on the

project. The students present their results to each other and we finish

with a discussion, which I moderate, that focuses on what the class has



Teng Sze Mei Jessie

At the beginning of this six-month English course I am conducting

with foreign students, I asked my students to write a letter to themselves,

stating their objectives for the course plus other objectives for these six

months. I collected their letters and will return it to them towards the end

of the course to see if their objectives have been met, and as a point of

reference for self-evaluation. It's my fisrt time doing it so I haven't got

any feedback on it from the students yet.


William Horstman"

I tie the end of the semester into the start of the semester.

On the first day of class in my College Success Strategies class we play a board game that I created. In this board game students move ahead, or go back on the board based on the square they land on. Statements such as "Write a good paper", "Spend 2 hours studying for every hour of class", allow the student to move ahead 1 - 4 spaces. Statements such as "Stay up all night cramming for an exam", "Forget an important assignment", force the student to move back 1 - 4 spaces/

At the end of the semester I read them the story Jumanji, a story of two kids who start a board game only to realize that the game is not over until they finish the game. (The book is very different then the movie.) The story has at least two morals. One is finish what you start, and the second is you need to know the rules. As part of the last moral we review what some of the rules of college we discussed that students need to know in order to succeed in college.

These activities are sure to focus students on the learning objectives. I have printed this out to adapt to Japanese teaching.

Honty Smith

1. I have secondary and university level students write a'beginning of the year' newsletter to parents - as if they were the teacher of the course. I offer expectations/categories for the newsletter and they take it from there (i.e. behaviour expectations, work expectations, course outline, and the like). It is interesting to see what comes from this assignment! In a way, it acts like a course evaluation - at least it shows me, the teacher, what the perceived curriculum and expectations is!

 2. At th beginning of the course, students jot down a) a question they want answered in the course b) someone (a student) they hope to work with or get to know better in the course c) an academic and personal goal they hope to reach during the course d) other (this varies according to the group, subject, etc. It could be a prediction about something within the school, province, nation. These are sealed in individual envelopes and collected. At the end of the course, the envelopes are distributed and opened. Students enjoy reflected back to see what they have accomplished (or not!). I then ask for a reflective journal entry in response to their envelope findings.
Jose Florencio Rodrigues

Last graduate course I taught I used a short instrument made up by the nine units of the course to which I attached five-point Likert scales (totally

useful-totally useless). The instrument, answered anonimously, helped me to pin down a number of areas needing better aproaches and some refurbishing. I liked the exchange of experiences triggered by your inquiry.
Marlene Preston

The end of my Communication Skills course is a celebration for my freshmen!

Before the exam period: The final assignment (as a take-home "exam") is due at the exam period. Rather than rehash the content of the course in an exam when some students are stressed and semi-coherent, I ask for a reflection paper describing their growth. Because students have collected their work in a portfolio, they can review everything they've compiled and use specific detail to point out their growth in oral and written communication skills. For example, they sometimes describe relationships with parents or roommates where communication was at one point difficult and was later resolved because the students acquired new skills on conflict resolution. A student might point out growth in writing skills by comparing assignments from two different points in the semester. Students may choose any focus for the reflection papers. I do not specify the length, but students generally write 2-5 page papers. For once, they seem eager to write!

To prepare for exam day: My students know only that we'll have some kind of final activity. I don't tell them exactly what that will be. They've learned to trust that I won't spring something negative, so they look forward to the surprise. I do ask them to bring chips or sodas to share with the class.

During the exam period: I ask students to write their names on slips of paper and put the names in a "hat." (Okay, whatever box or container I can find that day.) A student draws a name and then interviews the person whose name was drawn about his or her disasters and successes during the semester. Sometimes a student also solicits comments from other students in reference to the partner's progress. After 5-10 minutes, students make some quick notes and then make impromptu speeches. They congratulate their partners on their accomplishments during the semester. They honor their classmates in the way only peers can do.

Many of the presentations are funny; some are nostalgic. These freshmen refer to many kinds of growth -- writing, speaking, and life skills. We share snacks and laughter (even a few tears) and often leave each other with student-initiated hugs.

Rationale: Does this sound like too much fun? My students have worked hard during the semester! They've already passed lots of tests; written numerous letters, memos and researched reports; and delivered several speeches. They have also become part of a supportive community--a group of new friends who edited their papers, critiqued their speeches, and coached them through the creative process. They deserve a chance to celebrate their achievements.

Of course, they ARE applying the skills they've acquired by completing a final task in writing and speaking. In many ways, I know much more about a student's progress in my course from this kind of activity than I would know from any written exam. (After all, many freshmen have made remarkable changes from August to May; some of them have been in my class for that whole, incredible year.)

I now look forward to exam day. When I recall the grueling exams I used to think I HAD to give, I wish I could apologize to those students of years ago. They always ran out of time as they wrote and wrote and wrote; no one had a chance to say good-bye. My students today leave with a positive sense that they have achieved more than they could have imagined.
Sheella Mierson

To end a PBL course in physiology for undergraduate students, I've turned the last part of class the last day into a party, to celebrate everyone's hard work. This has included various games with physiological content, plus each group bringing snack food to share. One year I had the students do physiological skits, with each group presenting a different topic. I got this idea from an article in a physiology education journal, though I modified it to turn it into a game and so that the students made up the skits instead of the teacher. A week or so ahead of time I made out slips of paper, each with the name of a different organ system we had studied during the semester, and each PBL group drew one slip from a hat. They could bring in any costumes or props they wanted, and could recruit other students to join their skit if they needed more players. The rest of us had to guess what the skit was

portraying (without knowing what organ system they were doing). The skits were wonderful. I got hold of a Polaroid camera from the department & was shooting pictures during the skits; at one point I was laughing so hard I couldn't even shoot. Some of the students told me later that planning the skits served as a good review of some of the material. One group that had had some tension among the members during the last part of the semester told me that they ended their group feeling much more positive about each other because they had so much fun working together on their skit.

This was in the first semester of a two-semester course sequence. The skits went so well I hoped to do the same thing at the end of the second semester, but the students would hear none of it. They wanted to do something different. Plus preparing the props & costumes took time and time gets very short at the end of the school year (especially since some of them were graduating seniors). So I asked for volunteers to plan the party, and told them that whatever they came up with was to have some physiological content & that they were to check it with me. They made up a game of "physiological pictionary," with each PBL group being a team. At the end of the game, the students were justifiably proud of themselves, since they recognized that for many of the terms and concepts used in the game they would not have known what to do at the beginning of the semester. In addition, the whole activity was very spirited, with lots of laughter and cheering. Most of the terms were anatomical or physiological; however a few PBL jargon words crept in.

I have always set aside some time during the last class (before the party) for any appreciations of their group members that they haven't already told each other, especially of skills or qualities that they may have seen growth in during the term. This is done orally in their groups, and is in addition to whatever formal evaluation activities they have done.

Semester Reflection

1. What changes have you seen this semester in regards to your education?
2. What role did technology play in that change?
3. Are you more or less motivated to learn?
4. Do you feel that your grade is an accurate measurement of your learning?
5. What role did the constructivist philosophy play in that change? (constructivist-students becoming producers of information, students in charge of their own learning.
6. What suggestions for improvement do you have for me next year?
7. Do you want to continue with the No D policy?
8.What are some of the things you would suggest I do again?
9. Did you finish the semester where you wanted to in terms of your learning or grade?
10. For those of you that finished the semester with a D or F what are you going to do differently next semester?
11.Make sure to include specific examples and expand on each other's ideas. Your feedback- honest and reflective- is important!

Post to blog when done


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