SIP 9.15 Celebrating Accomplishments

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Three students in biology lab doing experiment.

With growing interest in taking inventory of our finances, apps and daily steps and reducing clutter in our closets, social-media feeds and social lives, we regularly take stock of what works and what doesn’t in our lives. We look to New Year’s Eve, birthdays or some marker of time to contain and maintain or trim and chuck. The end of the semester is a good time for students and instructors to take inventory of course accomplishments large and small, reminding everyone of our resilience and persistence. When the pressure to succeed is so high, why not tally what went well and celebrate before tackling Exam Week?

Take a SIP of this: celebrating accomplishments

Oh, those last weeks of the semester. Students worry about grades. Instructors worry about doing right by students. Hallways fill with “How’s your semester ending?” and “How many exams/papers/projects do you have?” There’s the gloom of “meh” instead of the glory of 16 hard-won weeks of learning. Students and instructors may feel more determined and less drained going into Exam Week simply by listing all that went right as opposed to inventorying what still has to get done or how much seemed to go wrong.

  • Set aside 10 minutes of a class period for students to perform a self-evaluation of what they knew on Day One compared with what they know on Day 32. Compile the lists to publicize on the wall or in Blackboard as a reminder of class growth.
  • Remind students that you and they are people doing your best to strive forward. Then, high-five, shake hands or fist-bump. In other words, personalize the struggle to finish. Pep talk and cheer, figuratively and literally.
  • Instead of an instructor-created final study guide, use a game or fun activity to review student-generated questions and answers. Ask students to work in groups or in pairs to draft the review questions and answers. Students quickly discover how many examples and explanations they have stored in their memories. As the review continues, questions become complex and comprehensive, too.
  • Assign a reflective writing or a cumulative project that requires students to build on skills learned throughout the semester. This increases student confidence and strengthens acquired skills while reducing the stress of one big final exam.
  • Encourage students to contribute assignments to e-portfolios. Students tally their finished projects and create products for future job-placement opportunities.
  • Hold a class event where students demonstrate their curriculum prowess. This could be a field trip, an exhibit, a contest, a performance or a day of speeches – any gathering where students are encouraged to invite friends and family to witness their honed skills.
  • Drop your grading despair outside the classroom door. You know you’ll finish grading. As active teaching may be winding down, your role is shifting to Positivity Enforcer. Do whatever it takes in the classroom to keep student morale high and positive going into Exam Week.
  • Recognize graduating seniors. Lead a short round of applause. Offer a treat. Honor graduates’ accomplishments while reinforcing the collective goal of graduating for the rest of the class.

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