Freshman Interest Groups: Sophomore Students Reflect on Their FIG Experience Ronald W. Laue Frankie D. Minor University of Missouri – Columbia ACPA Annual Conference March 20, 2006 Objectives for Program Session Problem statement and purpose of study Overview of FIGs program at MU Overview of what the research already tells us about FIGs Overview of study Results Discussion The Problem Undergraduate persistence and retention rates must improve if higher education is going to meet the needs of our nation and the world – Kuh et al., 2005 Where Should Efforts be Focused? There is overwhelming evidence that student success is largely determined by student experiences during the first year of college -Upcraft, et.al., 2005 Freshman Interest Groups One of many first-year initiatives to further enhance student success FIGs at MU Cohort of 15-20 first-year students Emphasis on particular major or interest Co-enrolled in up to three common courses Live in same residence hall (with few exceptions) Attend weekly one credit hour seminar, facilitated by a Peer Advisor Faculty/Staff Co-Facilitator involvement 5 Goals of FIG Program at MU 1. Enhance entering students’ transition to college 2. Make the campus psychologically small by creating peer reference groups 3. Encourage group identity development 4. Provide an integrated learning experience for freshman by connecting faculty, students, disciplines, and campus experiences in a purposeful, coherent, and seamless fashion 5. Enhance student’s academic and social success What we already know about FIGs from quantitative research Higher retention rates Greater academic success Students report significantly higher levels of involvement in campus activities Students indicate a greater openness to diversity – Pike, 2002 Purpose of Study To understand the lived experience of successful students who participated in a FIG – The lived experience of students undergraduate first-year students is a complex phenomenon made up of abstract social interactions that affect student motivation and behavior Student Success Defined – Many dimensions of Student Success – However…most colleges and universities verify Student Success as completing the required number of academic credits with a minimally acceptable GPA. If done, students are awarded a degree. – Upcraft et al., 2005 Reason for qualitative approach – The lived experience of undergraduate first-year students is a complex phenomenon made up of abstract social interactions that affect student motivation and behavior – A qualitative research method was chosen as a way to understand the whole experience of students, and gain more insight on why college students behave and think the way they do – Brown, et al, 2002 Criteria for Participants: Completed at least 24 credit hours Minimum GPA of 2.0 Continued enrollment into second year Participated in FIG with a journalism emphasis in the fall or 2004 Participants (260 met criteria) 17 interviews of sophomores in fall 2005 12 women 5 men 11 Caucasian 3 African American 2 Mexican American 1 Mexican/Iranian American Interview questions What was it like being in a FIG? Were there FIG experiences that helped you become academically successful as a student? Were there FIG experiences that you did not find helpful? Themes Emerging from Interviews 1. Social Influence 2. Unclear Connection with Academic Success 3. Peer Advisor Influence 4. Linking Students to their Major Department 5. Unclear Mission of FIG Seminar 1. Social Influence of FIG All seventeen students discussed the social influence of the FIG. Social influences relates to experiences of seeing, being around, talking with, studying with, living with, and taking classes with, specific peers in their FIG. All seventeen participants talked about friendships made 2. Unclear Connection with Academic Success Students often appeared confused, as to whether FIG was supposed to influence academic success Internal motivation Study groups Peer influence/motivation 3. Peer Advisor Influence Participants discussed in detail the influence of their Peer Advisor Importance of peer mentor who has “been through it before” Approachability of PA 4. Linking Students to their Major Department Participants discussed benefit of linking to School of Journalism by: Meeting faculty Learning about various sequences Getting perspective on how to focus their energies 5. Unclear Mission of FIG Seminar Is it a study group? Is it a class? How does it relate to our other classes? Points to Consider The emphasis on the social Finding where academic success fits in Finding the right people Relationship of FIGs to retention Mission and goal of FIG Seminar Questions and Discussion References Brown, S.C., Stevens, R.A., Troiano, P.F., & Schneider, M.K., (2002). Exploring complex phenomena: Grounded theory in student affairs research. Journal of College Student Development, 43(2), 173-183 Kuh, G.D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J.H., Whitt, E.J. (2005). Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Pike, G.R. (2002). The differential effect of on- and off- campus living arrangements of student’s openness to diversity. NASPA Journal, 39, 283-299 Upcraft, M.L, Gardner, J.N., & Barefoot (2005). Challenging and supporting the first-year student: A handbook for improving the first year of college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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