FYE, Best Practices

University 101

Most of the first year experience we looked at point to John Gardner’s work at U South Carolina, who founded the notion of the first year experience as a comprehensive cohesive plan rather that a course. The rationale for the comprehensive plan is that there is a philosophy that connects academics to university mission, policies, and practice.  The question is whether our philosophy and mission want a common core for all first year students, e.g. a writing course, a speaking course, a science course(s), language, history. Do we want First year students to have a seminar that emphasizes the liberal arts? In other words is it skills oriented more than content, or balanced? We seem to have gone wrong with assuming that first year seminar would take care of first year experience without planning how to interact with Student Activities and other constituents. Seminar is only a part of first year experience; we need to move some of this into all of the gen ed.
Example: Structure of University 101, University of South Carolina from UNIV 101 Homepage, University of South Carolina .

  • South Carolina integrates first year seminars and a summer reading program in its UNIV 101 program.  It is not clear if they also have non-classroom components to their First Year Experience.

Currently in its 39th year, University 101 Programs is an academic unit that fosters student success, development, and transitions into, through, and out of the University of South Carolina. Through our four academic courses (UNIV 101, 201, 290, and 401), students at all levels of University study engage in deep learning and exploration of focused topics in seminar settings.

The University of South Carolina’s hallmark course, University 101, is a national model for first-year seminars and is consistently named by US News and World Report as a ‘program to look for’. The four courses are team-taught by instructors drawn from departments across the Columbia and  system campuses who are assisted by graduate students and undergraduate peer leaders, making these courses settings for active and collaborative teaching and learning.

A robust annual agenda of instructor development workshops help faculty, university administrative staff, graduate students, and undergraduate peer leaders hone their teaching and facilitation skills for use in UNIV courses and other educational settings. Through these courses, student success and retention is enhanced at the University of South Carolina.

++

From UNIV 101 Course Descriptions.

University 101, a first-year student seminar, is the longest running of the four courses. Introduced in 1972, University 101 is a three credit hour, letter-graded course for first-year and transfer students. The purpose of University 101 is to help new students make a successful transition to the University of South Carolina, both academically and personally. It aims to foster a sense of belonging, promote engagement in the curricular and co-curricular life of the university, articulate to students the expectations of the University and its faculty, help students develop and apply critical thinking skills, and help students clarify their purpose, meaning, and direction. A set of common learning outcomes are required for all sections.

The course is an elective for the majority of its enrollees; however, some colleges and programs require students to take specialized sections of the course. Over the years, student enrollment has risen to approximately 80% of the incoming freshman class. University 101 is team-taught in small groups (18-22 students) by faculty members or administrative personnel and upper-class peer leaders/grad leaders who have a special interest in first-year student education.

University 101 is offered in the fall, spring, and summer semesters, although the vast majority of USC-Columbia students enroll in the fall. Credit is applicable as elective or required credit toward graduation depending on the student’s program of study. Special sections of the course have been established for members of various subgroups such as Capstone Scholars, students with a common major, students in a living-learning community, and transfer students.

+++

The University of South Carolina also incorporates a First Year Reading Experience (FYRE) into their First Year Experience during “Welcome Week.”

Here is a general description of the FYRE at University of South Carolina: http://www.sc.edu/fyre/aboutus/index.shtml

Here is a brief description of this year’s event: http://www.sc.edu/fyre/

Intellectual Practices

A.                  Common Reading Experience
The University of South Carolina also incorporates a First Year Reading Experience (FYRE) into their First Year Experience during “Welcome Week.”

Here is a general description of the FYRE at University of South Carolina: http://www.sc.edu/fyre/aboutus/index.shtml

Here is a brief description of this year’s event: http://www.sc.edu/fyre/

B.                  First-Year Seminars and Experiences
Many schools now build into the curriculum first-year seminars or other programs that bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis. The highest-quality first-year experiences place a strong emphasis on critical inquiry, frequent writing, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies. First-year seminars can also involve students with cutting-edge questions in scholarship and with faculty members’ own research. (High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter, George D. Kuh, 2008)

C.                  Summer Learning Communities
D.                 Freshmen Interest Groups / Learning communities

The key goals for learning communities are to encourage integration of learning across courses and to involve students with “big questions” that matter beyond the classroom. Students take two or more linked courses as a group and work closely with one another and with their professors. Many learning communities explore a common topic and/ or common readings through the lenses of different disciplines. Some deliberately link “liberal arts” and “professional courses”; others feature

service learning. (High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter, George D. Kuh, 2008)

E. Emphasis on diverse ideas, worldviews and cultures

Many colleges and universities now emphasize courses and programs that help students explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from their own. These studies—which may address U.S. diversity, world cultures, or both—often explore “difficult differences” such as racial, ethnic, and gender inequality, or continuing struggles around the globe for human rights, freedom, and power. Frequently, intercultural studies are augmented by experiential learning in the community and/or by study abroad. (High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter, George D. Kuh, 2008)

F. Promotion of citizenship

G. Connect honor code with ethics of research

H. Collaborative learning – Individual learning should compliment collaboration
Collaborative learning combines two key goals: learning to work and solve problems in the company of others, and sharpening one’s own understanding by listening seriously to the insights of others, especially those with different backgrounds and life experiences. Approaches range from study groups within a course, to team-based assignments and writing, to cooperative projects and research.

Transition issues

A.  Faculty may have assumptions about students that are wrong

B. Difficult to get students to come to office hours

C. Facult, programs and processes must be explicit about intentional learning

D. All must understand importance of collaborative learning

E. Student expectations may not match curriculum requirements

IV. Issues in implementation of Best Practices

A. Some students may be underprepared for the rigors of First Year courses and activities

B. Skills acquired

C. Foundation courses vs. flexible curriculum. This is 2 ends of a spectrum for curriculum development.  “Foundation courses” are courses that all students take and that get all students to the same learning outcomes.  “Flexible curriculum” is a variety of courses and curricula that get all students to the same learning outcomes.

One Response to FYE, Best Practices

  1. Pingback: First Year Experiences: An Introduction « ProVisions: Teaching and Learning Series

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>