ATT3: Last Minute Nugget

When I started thinking about these tidbits, something I had done in class had been at the back of my mind. It’s actually quite simple, but I found the effect rather nice.
See, in some classes, there are students who start to pack their things several minutes before the official end of the class meeting. I know several colleagues have the same problem, so “it’s not just me.” It doesn’t happen all the time or in every class, but it does happen and, when it does, it seems to spread to a significant part of the class, causing significant disruption.
Hadn’t found a way to solve this. Tried telling students about the disruptive effects of this behaviour, but that never worked. So, one class meeting, I had this very simple idea: say something important at the very end of class. That’s the last minute nugget concept.
A few moments before the end of the class meeting, I warned students that I would end the class with something which should be on the exam. Obviously, they started paying a lot of attention. I said a single sentence which encapsulated a rather important and potentially complex conceptual link. I said this only once and I didn’t address the same issue in class at another point. Students who really understood the material could answer a question about this issue even without my “nugget.” Since I podcast my courses, everyone has access to that nugget, even if they weren’t in class at that point. Besides, if students do any kind of peer-learning, the nugget can easily be shared through the group. Bottomline: my question on this was going to be fair and students knew it. A student asked me for clarification and when I refused, it made it sound almost like a game.
In fact, that nugget was rather effective, I think, because it was somewhat more complex than other things I’d usually address more fully. And thinking about this nugget could be an efficient way to focus on understanding instead of on remembering. I hadn’t really prepared it so much in advance but it made a lot of sense when I said it.
And I did the same thing in other class meetings from the same course. Just a few times, but it was enough to change the dynamic and students were fairly attentive at the end of class meeting from this point on.
It may sound like I simply taught them a lesson but I think it’s more than that. It changed something about my teaching.

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