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For the past few semesters, I have ended my smaller classes with potluck food and beverage sharing, a poster fair, and a chance to end the semester with loads of fun. I thought I’d share a bit about this in case this may be something other teachers might want to try.
The students plan the potluck. I just ask that they try to mix it up a bit so we don’t get all chips and poutine! This year students brought food items in from their home culture, as well as what could readily be found in nearby bakeries and grocery stores. What is important is that everyone contribute. The added benefit is that there is almost always food left over, and this results in the sharing continuing even after class finishes. I see the potluck as a key outcome of the course. Students will engage with each other (and me!) around the potluck table in some wonderfully engaging ways.
The poster fair is a great match for any class in which a major project is completed. I have done it for my Research in Education Class, a first-year graduate level class in which students prepare a research proposal. Students in my Theories of Individual and Collective Learning, an undergraduate course in our Minor in Organizational Learning and Teaching, also prepare posters. During the poster fair, students listen to each other’s poster presentations and provide peer review at the end, including an opportunity to engage collectively in a topic of the individual students’ choice. It is a great reflective experience that provides students with a truly authentic learning experience.
The loads of fun part comes as we engage each other, take a class photo, and then assemble an end-of-class mind map on the class topic. Lots of moving around, wonderful smiles, and a chance to put the course into practice.
You might think this approach is best with one type of student or class. Actually, it works for undergraduate and graduate classes. Size matters, with the best results being when the students know each other. But my guess is it could also work in a larger class. Maybe I will try that next year!