six people sitting at a table and working together with papers in the middle of the table

Finishing the Semester on a High Note

We often spend considerable effort planning the first day of class. We want to make sure that students’ first impressions of us and the course are positive. In the flurry of end of semester activities, it may be tempting to race through the final projects, exams, and grading without thoughtfully considering how we will approach the final days of the semester. However, we want to end the course as meaningfully as we started it.

To wrap up the semester smoothly, Eggleston and Smith (2002) recommend the use of “parting ways” techniques to provide closure and reduce awkwardness that can emerge when the end of the semester is not well planned. Benefits of the “parting ways” techniques include:

  • Providing emotional and psychological closure to the classroom thereby reducing awkwardness.
  • Acting as an opportune time to summarize central ideas and review content.
  • Wrapping up the class in ways that add to students’ entire semester-long experience and sense of accomplishment.
  • Stimulating interest in the topic area and possibly major.
  • Increasing the connection between faculty and students by recognizing the importance of taking time to say goodbye.


students in a classroom packing up their belongings and putting on purses and backpacks to leave the classroom

Ending the Semester

This guide focuses on three key aspects of ending the semester on a positive note. Reflecting on the class experience, gathering feedback about the course’s success, and using the course as a springboard for students’ future endeavors are discussed. The course end is also underscored as a good time for connecting seemingly disparate pieces of course material.

university student with a laptop and backpack, waving goody-bye

The Importance of Saying Goodbye to Your Students in Times of Uncertainty

While navigating the pandemic or life as we gradually return to “normal,” we may not realize the importance of our field, relationships, or what we are learning. These are typical responses to stress. This article includes techniques for honoring our students, ourselves, and our colleagues to provide a sense of purpose to our lives and closure to a course.

close-up of a hand putting a laptop into a backpack

Last Day of Class

The final class is a key student retention milepost. This guide offers 15 techniques recommended by faculty at the University of California Berkeley for making the last class session count.

Recommended Strategies

Choose one of the following strategies to implement

Ask Students to Use Mindfulness Techniques to Manage Stress and Anxiety

Final lectures, projects, and exams are looming. Stress and anxiety levels are increasing while our energy and patience are simultaneously waning. How do we survive, much less thrive, and support our students to avoid end of the semester burnout? Test anxiety can keep students from performing their best during the crucial final days of the semester. Ask students to try the 4-step mindful pause technique and prepare a short reflection about their experience. When did they use it? How often? Did it work? Why or why not? How could they use NIU mindfulness resources to manage their stress and anxiety? Try the technique yourself!

Use the Gallery Walk Technique to Review Course Content

Create an interactive review session using the gallery walk technique. Here are examples and a quick summary of the process: prepare discussion questions, assign students to small groups, post the questions at “stations”, ask students to discuss questions and leave input at each station. Continue the process until the groups reach their original station. Ask groups to synthesize comments and present the information to the whole class.

Ask Students to Write an End of the Semester Letter to Future Students

Sometimes students accept advice from their peers more readily than they take advice from their faculty. Ask your students to write a letter to future students that includes advice on strategies for success in your course. Provide some open-ended question prompts to guide the students’ advice. Consider including prompts for areas of the course where you have seen recurring challenges. Some sample prompts include: What assignments were the most challenging and why? What can future students do to be successful on these assignments?

Selected Additional Resources

Techniques for ending the semester are important for effectively closing the books on your course. Here are some additional resources for you to consider when designing your end of the semester activities.

  • A Pedagogy of Kindness: After years of teaching, Dr. Cate Denial realized that her combative and rigid approach to teaching was counterproductive. She eventually decided to apply kindness as a pedagogical approach. Addressing challenges in a kind, direct, and honest manner simplified her teaching practices, reduced stress, and strengthened relationships with students.
  • Fizzle or Finale: The Final Day of Class: A memorable last day of class can be a source of joy for you and your students. Celebrating students’ work, making emotional connections, and giving mementos are offered as ideas for a powerful course finale.

Next Steps

Please review the resources and select at least one of the recommended strategies to implement. Make a note to yourself about the strategy you used and the impact that it had.

This is the final newsletter in Scaffolded Support for Teaching Gateway Courses. We will send out a final message and link to the closing survey before final exams begin. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, feel free to let us know at

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