It was an idea for framing an exam review session, and it came to me at 3 a.m. in one of those slightly desperate bursts of inspiration that dare us to do something different and unconventional. That was five years ago. Since then I’ve used the idea in undergraduate survey courses, graduate seminars, and lots of other courses in between. I’ve decided it’s a good idea and worth sharing with others.
My class had just finished covering three chalkboards with a rather dazzling array of concept clusters, illustrations, and links among disparate ideas. Clearly, a lot of learning had been generated. As I picked up the eraser to clear the board, I mentioned it was too bad that Chelsea and Eric (who were absent) had missed this vibrant discussion.
Early in my professorial career, I noticed two patterns: (1) requests for extensions on papers and forgiven absences spiked immediately prior to major breaks, and (2) dying grandparents were nearly always the explanation offered for those requests. I definitely wondered, and sometimes felt guilty, about the close correlation between expiring relatives and due dates listed on my syllabus.