Bringing Your Course to an Effective Conclusion

As the term enters its last few weeks, it is common for some students to demonstrate signs of fatigue and a loss of momentum. Telltale signs might include:

  • Arriving late to class, often in a flustered state;
  • Missing one or more classes when their previous attendance was exemplary;
  • Failing to meet due dates for assignments;
  • Being under-prepared for in-class assignments;
  • Submitting assignments that don't meet their previous standards, and/or yours;
  • A decline in mental engagement and participation in classroom discussions;
  • A decline in spontaneity and/or sense of humor.

Remembering that today's students are often working too many hours and trying to maintain balance in other aspects of their lives, try to practice Stephen Covey's "Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood." The key to overcoming barriers to students' acceptable completion of this course is proactive, helpful communications. Talk with individual students - especially those, whose loss of momentum has been most dramatic, and to the class as a whole, to develop a grounded perspective. At this point in the term, students frequently perceive doom in not only yours, but other courses they are taking. Consider making slight adjustments in assignments that will be perceived as demonstrating understanding for students' welfare, without markedly lowering your standards. Often, students will perceive even a slight relaxation of high standards as a huge stress reducer.

In addition, examine your plans for the remaining few class meetings. Consider modifying activities to induce added energy into each by:

  • Shortening the length of lectures;
  • Using more visuals, such as video clips of current news events, to increase the relevance and applicability of course material in students' minds;
  • Employing more collaborative learning activities inwhich application is made of concepts studied throughout the course;
  • Scheduling an upbeat guest speaker who can synthesize course material studied throughout the term;
  • Provide informal feedback to each student more frequently;
  • Adding humor when appropriate, e.g. "top ten reasons why . . ."

We can probably all recall a time when we "hit the wall" -- physically, intellectually, and/or emotionally. And we can also probably recall a coach, mentor, or teacher who helped us get over that overwhelming obstacle. Becoming that kind of supporting person for your students during the last class meetings will enable you to have a long-term impact on their academic and career success.

Shop on line at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble to get your copy of Dr. Lyons' book, The Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success: Surviving and Thriving in the College Classroom.

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