The February ProVisions session focused on the topic of Integrated First Year Experiences (FYE), with the three presenters providing insight on how their specific departments are working towards improving students’ FYE here at The College of Saint Rose. The presenters included Risa Fausette, Associate Professor of History and Political Science, Katherine Moss, Reference and Access Services Librarian, and Jennifer Richardson, Director of Residence Life.
Dr. Fausette began by explaining FLEP, The College of Saint Rose’s First-Year Learning Experience Program, centered around the topic of the American City, consisting of seven thematically-linked courses focusing on the urban experience. Dr. Fausette is the coordinator of this program and detailed the six aspects of critical thinking that are both the skills and the basis for the FLEP courses’ learning objectives and assessment. The six facets of critical thinking include: analytical reading; process-based writing; inquiry; interpretation; argumentation; and synthesis and the strategic use of evidence. You can find Dr. Fausette’s PowerPoint presentation here: American City FYE. A major point of emphasis for Dr. Fausette is the importance of teaching students transferable skills, skills that give students techniques to approach texts, problems, etc., in multiple academic/occupational settings, rather than skills that are discipline specific. Dr. Fausette poses the question, Are students actually aware as to how developing these skills are essential to their success? To help her students understand the relevance of these skills, Dr. Fausette found it helpful to bring into the FYE class upperclassmen or grad students who are student teaching or serving as interns to both emphasize the skills they are using in the field as well as “testify” how their academic skills created professional opportunities. Dr. Fausette concluded by showing the group the overwhelmingly positive reactions/results that the American City Program has received so far, demonstrating growing confidence from the students in their ability to analyze, interpret, and write responses to texts that they are working with.
The second presenter, Katherine Moss, provided insight on the abilities of the Library staff to contribute to and improve students’ FYEs. Moss focused on the idea of “information literacy,” which is defined as “a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the need information.” Moss was sure to point out that information is growing exponentially, making the task of information literacy all the more challenging. The fact that now everyone can contribute to the digital world of information requires even more critical thinking and evaluating skills, to which Moss poses the question, how can we foster the critical thinking and evaluative skills needed when “teach to the test” is all these students have known? Moss spoke about the difficulty librarians have in trying to address this situation in a one shot session, and, conversely, the success they had in being able to participate in the FLEP program. By participating in FLEP, the library staff were able to be a part of the process, often invited back to classrooms more than once. In addition, they were privy to the goals of the program (as wells as the syllabi and rubrics for assessment) in advance, consequently able to share ways librarians could support the program’s goals, receiving feedback from faculty in relation to how students were using and applying what they had been taught. For more information, check out Moss’s Prezi here.
Last but not least, Jennifer Richardson, Director of Residence Life, talked about the importance of opportunities to improve FYEs outside of the classroom. Richardon’s PowerPoint (Knight Skills FYE) opened with four key quotes regarding the role of non-academic experiences and how they can contribute to and affect students’ faculty/academic interactions as well as student success. Richardson discussed EXY 100, a class where first year students were required to attend sessions that focused on “soft-skills” such as: study skills, sexual relationships, wellness, managing interpersonal conflict, resilience, and alchohol and drugs. In conclusion, Richardson provided some positive student feedback about those EXY sessions, such as: “Gave us insight on the college life basically an overview of what to expect in a college setting which was interesting because it made you think and reflect on certain issues. Like a therapeutic session.” Richardson left off with the question/challenge: How can we give this experience to all 600 first year students?