Faculty Pilot First-Year Experience for Incoming Freshmen Interested in Pursuing a Degree in Education

Faculty Pilot First-Year Experience for Incoming Freshmen Interested in Pursuing a Degree in Education

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2452-6.ch001
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In this opening chapter, the researchers, three full-time college faculty members, discuss the initial focus of their collaborative work and research. Driven by the concerns regarding the reading and writing abilities of students entering their programs and across their campus, they responded to this issue by establishing and co-teaching yearlong linked courses to incoming first-year students interested in education, a pilot that eventually became known as the First-Year Reading, Thinking, and Writing Initiative. The data collected from the first few years of the Initiative indicate the benefits of having a year-long linked course structure for this population of students to promote academic achievement, social adjustment, and, as the researchers learned through this experience, civic engagement.
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Before all of this (class and portfolio), I was never really involved in civic engagement and why it was so important to be involved in the community that you are in. After, I now realize all of the benefits of getting involved and playing a role in the actions and decisions made by everyone in the community, both at Keene, and my hometown. – First-year student…


Reading, Thinking, And Writing Initiative

Because the literature on the first-year experience highlights the challenges of replicating programs across institutions due to the unique characteristics of each college or university, we took the characteristics of our institution and students into consideration when creating the Reading, Thinking, and Writing Initiative (Jamelske, 2009). First-year programs vary greatly due to a variety of factors, including whether the institution is public or private, the size of the institution, the institution’s location and proximity to a town or city, and the institution’s emphasis on teaching and research. In addition to the aforementioned differences across colleges, the diversity of the student population plays a role in the design and implementation of first-year experiences (Jamelske, 2009).

Our students attend a liberal arts college in a small New England city (population 23,500). The college has about 5,000 undergraduate students with an average of 41% of the students (2011-2016) being first-generation college students and 9-10% of students receiving services from the Office of Disability Services. With these, and other factors in mind, we designed the Reading, Thinking, and Writing Initiative for any first-year student interested in education, to not only learn skills and strategies in college-level reading and writing, but to also create systems of support with classmates and professors to help them transition into academic life. While many colleges offer a writing course, the qualitative data collected from the Reading, Thinking, and Writing Initiative and recent scholarship in composition on the connections between reading and writing acknowledge the need for colleges to include a reading component in the first-year experience to prepare them for the reading and writing expectations in their college courses (Sturtz, Hucks, & Tirabassi, 2017; Carillo, 2015; Horning & Kraemer, 2013).

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