I start each course I am teaching by having students create a mission statement. I have found this activity sets the tone (as well as the goals) for the rest of the course.
I give each student a “post-it” note. I ask each student to write one goal he/she has for the class or why he/she is in this class or what he/she most wants to learn in this class. If the students have more than 1 idea, I give them another “post-it” note (students should write only 1 idea per “post-it”). Students are then instructed to stick the “post-it” to the board or to a big, white sheet of paper I have taped to the board.
Next students are asked to organize the ideas on the notes into categories. (If the class is large, the instructor may read the notes and ask the class to decide what category the note fits.) The categories in my class this quarter ended up being “better study skills,” “motivation,” “grades,” and “success.”
Once the categories are established, two or three students are chosen to use the category titles to create a sentence or two that summarizes the categories. This sentence or two becomes the class’s mission statement. This quarter the mission statement that resulted from the above categories was “To improve/obtain better study skills and motivation in order to receive an A and to be successful in all classes and successful in life.”
At this point the students are aware of the goals for the class and the direction of the course. This activity is valuable because the students have learned teamwork from day one, the students feel they have a voice in setting the goals for the class, and I learn a lot about the class in a brief period of time. I have done this often enough that it usually takes about 20 minutes of class time at the most, but the positive class attitude that develops from this activity is worth every minute of time spent on it.
–Beverly Brown, Adjunct Professor, College Survival Skills, North Central State College, OH