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Community Coach
Community Coach

End of the Semester Best Practices

I'm all caught up; ...said no teacher ever.

In the Community, we hear a lot about starting a term and/or building student engagement.

Now that many teachers are nearing a term's end, do you have any tips + tricks, best practices, or rituals you have for concluding your course or term? What helps you bring all of those "loose ends" together? What helps you destress? What helps you stay organized?

These ideas could be Canvas specific, or simply things you do for yourself or your classroom.

4 Replies
Community Champion

What a great coincidence,  @klundstrum ‌! I just this minute shared something at Twitter which I wanted to also write up here at Canvas but didn't have time for a post right now... but it fits perfectly here! One of my end-of-semester rituals is to ask the students to give advice to next semester's students (and of course they remember reading advice like that from when they got started earlier this semester).

So, normally I do that as a blog post where I ask the students to comment, but this time I thought it would be fun to do that as a Padlet. I just set it up yesterday; some students are done early, and I wanted to catch their comments. Not surprisingly, the students who are done early are advising future students to take advantage of the chance to work ahead ha ha. But it's very good advice: they are writing from their own experience of success!

By the time all the students are done over the next two weeks, I hope I will have a nice big bunch of advice to share with next semester's students, and the Padlet format is going to have it nicely laid out on a big page too. So far, so good: I think Padlet is going to be a really good tool for this! After the semester is over I'll write up a blog post with more details, but it's definitely off to a good start. 🙂

screenshot of padlet with student advice

Community Champion

 @klundstrum  Thank You for starting this discussion. I'm going to tag the Higher Education‌ and CCC Canvas Home Base groups as those are the worlds I work in and my colleagues there also probably have some good tips.

I don't have any closing rituals outside of a final announcement with words like "it was a great semester" and "I have lots of confidence in your future as historians" or "you are on your way to being excellent online learners." I will also make comments on the feedback for final assignments so individual students hear positive words, like "it was a pleasure reading your contributions to our class discussions this semester." In my in-person classes on the last day of lecture in the spring I would ask students who were graduating or transferring that semester to identify themselves and I would lead the rest of the class in a round of applause. Peer recognition is very positive!

Like laurakgibbs‌ I ask students to reflect on their learning experiences, and I do this in a couple of ways. One is at the beginning of the term in my get-to-know-you exercise. I ask students to share things like where they were born, what the next stop is on their educational journey, etc., and I like to include something like "What was your best educational experience as a student?" Their answers give me some ideas on what has inspired them, and if they name a colleague I get to pass on some unsolicited positive feedback.

The other reflection comes in my final exams. One is a graded survey asking students questions about the class, which works well to collect feedback from students and I use to judge my own performance and use of technology. Sometimes what I think is a whiz-bang idea ends up becoming a damp squib, and it's good to have the anecdotes and data to reify my sense of whether something works.

The other is my comprehensive essay final exam, which instead of an exercise in regurgitation I use as an exercise in reflection. I ask one question: 

I would like you to give an honest assessment of what you feel you accomplished in our class this semester, which assignments or class activities you enjoyed the most, and which assignments or class activities challenged you. Finally, what skills did you practice or learn that you think will be the most valuable as you pursue your educational and professional goals?

Like my survey, I get lots of wonderful words from students on the class. The last part of that question I think is the most valuable, as of course I want our time together to be meaningful to them after I submit final grades.

For me the end-of-term hassle of grading exams becomes a pleasure as I get a small peek into what my students have been thinking. The students who have been doing well throughout the class almost always meet my expectations for thoughtfulness in their essays, and I usually have a few other students who pleasantly surprise me with tasty quotes.

Does it help me de-stress? Maybe a bit, but before the end of one semester I have already started to worry about the next. Which of those cool tricks will I try in Canvas next time? How do I decide whether that experiment that my students said was a failure really was?

Normally I am against final exams... but I would so enjoy your final exam,  @GregoryBeyrer ‌! Did you see Kevin Gannon's piece making the rounds? Your exam sounds like the kinds of things he was suggesting too! 

About failures, it's kind of ironic because I didn't get any student excitement about using Padlets themselves this semester... but I decided to use this end-of-semester Padlet to give it one last shot, ha ha, and this way I will have a fun Padlet to share right from the very day of class next semester. For good luck and trying again, rethinking the different ways I share/show Padlets in class. 🙂

Thanks laurakgibbs‌ for that reference. I did see the article and was glad to read the echoes.