Campus: University of Washington 

1. Course Wrap-up

Educator: Alyssa Taylor, Bioengineering
Context: in-class; Introduction to Bioengineering Problem Solving
Keywords: first-year students, course reflection, participation points
Student Activity Time: 5 minutes

On the last day of the introductory bioengineering course, students are prompted to reflect on the value of what they’ve learned.

Introducing the Reflection Activity

Many first- and second-year students are still exploring their specific interests in engineering, and the survey course, Introduction to Bioengineering, aims to expose students to the many areas of work within bioengineering. At the end of the course, the educator provided a prompt for students to reflect on the entire course. The purpose of this activity was to assist students in recognizing the value of the entire course experience and connect it to their future plans.

During the last regular class meeting, the educator gave a recap of all of the course topics and subjects that were covered in a sequential fashion. After some class discussion, a slide that reviewed course material, and a short pause, students were asked to write individual answers to the following prompt: “Describe at least two things you learned in this course that you expect to prove useful to you in the future.” The educator offered approximately five minutes for students to write their responses on index cards. Throughout the course, the educator used these “participation cards” as a way to collect feedback and information from students, so students were accustomed to the activity. Participation cards were scored on a 0-1-2 point scale: 0 points for not completing the task, 1 for minimal effort, and 2 for an appropriately substantive answer. The participation cards were used to calculate each student’s course participation grade.

Students provided substantive responses that indicated their thoughts about the course in relationship to their careers as students and engineers. Some of the outcomes of the course that were captured in this activity included a clear commitment to engineering and science, or at least well-informed interest in alternative disciplines.

 Recreating the Reflection Activity

Step Description
1 Provide a slide with a comprehensive, graphical representation of the course content to remind students of topics covered in the course.
2 Provide the prompt and give students approximately five minutes to write responses on index cards.
3 Collect index cards and grade on a 0-1-2 point scale.
In the words of the Educator: Tips and Inspiration

Make short answers on index cards a habit. The students do participation-point cards throughout the quarter. Most of the other prompts are in the context of the lesson, so a bulleted list or a group response to a specific question, but they were used to doing this throughout the term. They earn a zero, one, or two points for their responses that count toward their class participation grade. 

Remind the students of what we’ve done. It’s important for an activity like this to remind them first of what we’ve done. That’s why I take the time to do the one slide to recap everything. If you just did this in an open-ended format without doing the recap part—just the question—I don’t think I would get as many good responses, because they will forget everything they did. It’s really hard for students to remember the details. I also think you get a positive feel to the activity. Also, give them enough time—just about five minutes is enough.

What was the inspiration for the reflection activity? I got the idea of participation activities from Karen Freisem, a consultant in the Center for Teaching and Learning. The concept is especially important as an effective way to keep a large lecture class attending and engaged. I started with that and built up more of these activities along the way. This is a great way to wrap up the course, because I wanted to recap everything that we covered in the class. I didn’t use the word reflection in my head at the time, but I didn’t want it to be stressful among finals and final projects, so this short activity made sense. It helps them realize how much they’ve accomplished and end on a good note.

It’s fun to see what they are picking out and what course material they are interested in. I get emails from former students who tell me how much they’ve learned, or how the course helped them get a lab position, so it’s really rewarding for me, too. I’ve really adopted an approach to teaching, “Where are you going and why do you care?”, and students benefit from it as well. It’s also fun for me, because I get to see their goals and their future plans that are sometimes influenced by the course

< Back to University of Washington