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The Semester Review

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There are many urgent, practical things that need to be done as the semester winds down: administrative reports, meetings, grading, and book orders for the next term. But setting aside a few minutes for reflection offers many benefits. An end-of-semester review process lets you capture important aspects of your experience while they are still reasonably fresh in your mind so that you can learn from them.

Taking time to notice and celebrate the positive aspects of the semester is especially valuable, because the brain’s negativity bias encourages us to focus on negative experiences. A negative experience last week will tend to override your memory of a positive experience two months ago. That tendency, combined with the fatigue and stress of the last weeks of the semester, can tend to produce overly negative assessments of your performance. So this review process begins with the positive before looking at areas of difficulty.

The simple written reflection exercise that I outline here can be used for any dimension of your professional or personal life: for example, you could use these questions to consider your teaching, research, health, or family life. But rather than try to cover all of these dimensions at once, I recommend going through the review questions first for one domain, and then for another.

1. What went well this semester? List 3-5 successes, accomplishments, or positive experiences. What made each a success? How did you contribute to it?

2. What challenges did you face this semester? List 3-5 challenges, difficulties, or obstacles. How did you respond to each?

3. Review your two lists. What patterns or themes do you notice? What lessons do you want to learn from this semester? How will you apply them in the future?

What kind of end-of-semester review do you do? Let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image by flickr user Kate Ter Haar]

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