Review Sessions

Interactive review sessions, designed to help students prepare for their final assignments and exams, are a common feature of the final weeks of the semester and Reading Period. Creating review sessions that are inclusive, collaborative, and engaging is particularly important now that we are teaching online, given the unique challenges posed by remote teaching. Now more than ever, students need spaces in which they can study collaboratively, ask and answer each other's questions, and engage critically with course material. Fostering such environments will make learning more transparent and goal-oriented for our students.

Well-designed review sessions can help bring students together by codifying a time and space for collaboration, particularly when so many students are geographically dispersed and out of touch with their peers; they can also motivate students by reinforcing the course's semester-long learning goals and helping students to see how much they have learned over the course of the semester.

To that end, it's a good idea in advance of the session to give your students a relatively small assignment (a practice exam or a paper outline) that simulates the format of your final assessment and prompts them to generate questions you can later address in the session. Here are some concrete ideas about how this process can unfold:

  • If your course concludes with a final exam, you might ask your students to complete a practice exam (by trying to answer questions without looking at the answer key) and grade themselves before coming to your review session. You can suggest that they note down the questions that come up as they take and grade their practice exam, and bring these questions to your review session. You can begin your review session by grouping students into breakout rooms of 2, 3, or 4 students in which each student can share their questions and answer their peers' questions where they can. You can then close all the breakout rooms and have a group discussion of the questions everyone discussed, answering any remaining questions they have.

  • If your final assignment is a paper, ask your students to develop a bullet-point outline (or storyboard) of their paper, and break them up in small groups during the review sessions to share each other's outlines. Provide your students with the final assignment prompt and grading rubric so they can see how each other’s outlines align with the goals of the assignment as they are reviewing and editing each other's work.

  • The Bok Center's ABLConnect website has many examples of lesson plans for interactive review sessions, including "Getting Students to Ask Up," and an example of "gamifying" review sessions, for example "Astro-Jeopardy." Look for more online-friendly activities on ABLConnect's "Going Digital" page.

To increase the accessibility of these review sessions: offer several such review sessions at different times, if possible, for students living in different time zones; record and post the review session on your Canvas page; and collect questions over email (or via a Canvas discussion board) from students who cannot attend and post answers to common questions after the review session. These review sessions also naturally apply retrieval practice (Carpenter et al., 2017) and interleaving, both of which consistently have been shown to improve student learning and critical thinking.

You also may wish to point students to the Academic Resource Center's (ARC) guidance for students about how to organize their time and set goals for themselves when studying, and their Tips and Tricks pages.

Academic Technology for the FAS / HUIT

Your starting place for learning about and accessing many of the technological tools you may need, such as Zoom, Canvas, and related plug-ins.

The Vice Provost for Advances in Learning (VPAL)

VPAL convenes university-wide conversations about teaching and pedagogical research, particularly in the online space.

The Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE)

OUE oversees, and stewards resources devoted to, the undergraduate curriculum at Harvard College..

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE)

DCE offers a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online courses, and their staff are experienced in thinking about multiple ways to achieve your goals through different mediums.

SEAS and the Division of Science

Advice on teaching in the sciences.

The Harvard Libraries

Request help modifying/troubleshooting your research-based assignments.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Schedule a consultation with the Bok Center's Senior Staff. (Please note that consultations are available only for Faculty and Teaching Fellows in the FAS.)

Faculty can visit our office hours, every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 10:30–11:30 AM; or request a class observation.

Daily Office Hours  |  Class observation

Teaching Fellows can attend and explore the asynchronous Canvas resources from Winter Teaching Week; or attend our biweekly TF resource hours.

Winter Teaching Week  |  TF Resource Hours

The media production staff of the Bok Center's Learning Lab can provide consultations for faculty teaching Harvard College courses using Zoom and other modes of media capture. We can provide suggestions for setting up remote video capture environments in your home or office, and on ways to integrate media into your courses.  Please contact us if you would like to discuss your needs with our staff.

Email the Learning Lab  |  Request a Media Tutorial

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