The first year sets the emotional tone for the rest of their higher education career. It serves as the educational foundation for all subsequent learning. It is frequently a test of resilience across a chasm that often includes a geographical move, new people, new living situations, new learning styles, and new educational demands.
Indeed, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, up to 30% of freshmen do not re-enroll.
These percentages represent a heart wrenching number of students who arrive at university with high expectations only to leave with dashed hopes and shattered dreams.
So, what can educational institutions do? And how have universities been successful in assisting first-year students?
- Reset Students’ Expectations
The university-student narrative should begin earlier in a student’s education, whether through mentor programs, brochures, or outreach programs such as Outward Bound. Universities gain control of their own narrative in this way. More and more schools are taking such proactive measures, which are especially effective when combined with comprehensive campus student orientation.
- Enhance Learning in Lecture Courses
When the vast majority of first-year students are taught in large lecture halls, the need for supplemental learning grows. While the definition of “learning” at a university is to promote original thought, a lecture hall largely reinforces the banking model of education.
Students may arrive at university having learned primarily through memorization. This is a rude awakening at university, where original thinking is of the utmost importance. How do we promote active learning among students in lecture halls?
Directing students to ask questions is one way we can encourage active learning. When students ask questions during lectures, the assignment implicitly requires them to read and generate their own thoughts and direction about the readings. In addition, modelling a lecture around student questions encourages active learning.
- Utilize Office Hours
Office hours are frequently underutilized, despite their potential as a key platform for developing relationships with students and providing a safe space for intellectual rapport and dialogue. We can meet with students before class and chat in the lecture hall, but we can also invite them to office hours for open-ended discussion rather than dealing with tactical issues about assignments.
Encourage faculty to be approachable, and use office hours to allow students to discuss questions and better understand lecture content. It’s also tedious for instructors to spend office hours alone. Why not have some company and help students learn?
- Give Feedback Quite Often
If students are unsure of what to expect, or if they come from different learning backgrounds, early and frequent feedback is critical. Feedback allows you to build scaffolding for students as they adjust to their first year of university. As students propose, draught, and flesh out their ideas, educators can guide them toward critical thinking and original thought.
Students are on their own without feedback until they re