Teaching First-Year College Students: Opportunities and Challenges Betsy Barefoot, EdD Co-Director & Senior Scholar Policy Center on the First Year of College
Characterizing Today’s New Students: Playing the “Name Game” • Internet Generation • Echo Boomers • the Boomlet • NeXters • Generation Y • Digital Generation, • Sunshine Generation (Canada), • Millennials Attempts to generalize – helpful or unhelpful?
Timeless Characteristics – Irrespective of “Name” • Excited • Wanting to create “a new me” • Homesick • Intimidated • Concerned about having friends • Unaware of options
Look to the Right, Look to the Left . . • Fearful of academic failure
The Helicopter Parent • Pressured by family
What else is being said about today’s students • Consumer oriented • Entertainment oriented • Entitlement oriented • Negotiators • Swinging from liberal to conservative values – values are “compartmentalized” • Like instant gratification • Adaptable and pragmatic
What’s Being Said (cont’d.) • Believing in excellence for everyone • Skeptical and cynical • Stressed – in debt • Relationship experimenters (Facebook) • Techno-sophisticated • Studying less and getting better high school grades • Multitaskers
And as if that weren’t enough - • Data from the 2005 Freshman Survey • 28% of first-year students are Catholic; 12% are Baptist, and 17% have no church affiliation • 38% applied to 4 or more institutions • 31% are not attending their first-choice institution • Tend to rate themselves very highly in all areas of personal and academic development (especially men)
And even more . . . • Have middle-of-the-road political views • List “business” as their #1 major of choice (17%) • List the following life objectives as “very important” or “essential” • Raising a family (75.9%) • Being very well off financially (74.5%) • Helping others who are in difficulty (66.3%) • Becoming an authority in my field (59.1%) • Obtaining recognition from my colleagues for contributions to my special field (54.2%)
What about your students? • Bentley first-year students • How have they changed over recent years • What are their strengths? • What are their special needs?
What does it all add up to? Why is the first year especially important? • It’s the foundation for • Determining whether your major is right for you • Establishing a good (or a dismal) GPA • Learning or maintaining good study habits • Developing positive attitudes toward faculty • Finding a comfort zone in the institution • Finding friends (some of them lifelong friends) • A period when they decide whether to stay or transfer • Deciding about affiliations • Acquiring both positive and negative behaviors • Redefining one’s role in the family • Developing economies of time
Special Teaching Issues in First-Year Classes • Relevance. Helping students think creatively “to understand the relevance which exists at the interfaces—the margins of knowledge and personal experience” (H. Blake). • Understanding the Bentley Curriculum. Need to help students understand the relationship of general education and the major – your rationale for organizing the curriculum as you do.
More Special Issues • Dualism/Passivity/Academic Disengagement.
More Special Issues • How to Study. Many students devote large numbers of clock hours to study—with few observable results. Others study infrequently, if at all. • Aligning Expectations. The match between student expectations and the reality of college life plays an important role in student success. Some students find college to be far less demanding than they had been led to believe; others find it far more demanding.
More Special Issues • Learning Styles, Special Issues for Women and Students of Color. Diverse learning styles characterize most first-year classrooms. Research evidence indicates that women and students of color are often “field-dependent” learners, responding best to learning that is relevant, relational, and contextual. • Academic Dishonesty. Whether through misunderstanding or intent, many first-year students cheat and accept cheating as part of the academic status quo. This is often a particular issue with students from other cultures. Tends to be a more serious problem with students in business.
More Special Issues • The Importance of Attendance/The Importance of Feedback. Early absences are a marker for trouble. First-year students are accustomed to and motivated by frequent feedback on their academic performance. • The Need for ENTERTAINMENT. Some research has shown that student evaluations of instruction are influenced by the perceived “enthusiasm” of the instructor.
How do you know when students are in trouble? • Absenteeism from class, especially early in the term • Failure to turn in assignments • No “nesting” behavior—suitcases may still be packed, no pictures on the wall • Returning home every weekend • Lack of involvement on campus • Signs of possible depression – more than homesickness
Hearing from You • What Else? • What are the special issues you are facing as you teach, advise, and work with first-year students? • What are the warning signs for students who need special attention?
Contact Information Betsy Barefoot, EdD Policy Center on the First Year of College email@example.com www.firstyear.org