Twenty instructors from Purdue University Calumet and Purdue University North Central recently completed a two-week intensive development program on first-year experience courses.
Participants heard presentations on a number of topics related to the success of beginning students, with an emphasis on low-income and first-generation students. The faculty members worked in small groups to develop a shared sense of the most important learning outcomes for first-year experience courses. Finally, they developed revised syllabi that incorporated these outcomes and presented each syllabus to the group.
Common ground was quickly established in discussing the ways in which entering students at both campuses are often in need of the room for reflection and exploration that a first-year experience course can provide. First-generation students in particular, who come from families and sometimes communities with limited experience of college, often have misconceptions. The group discussed the complexities of work-school balance, how students often do not see financial aid as a legitimate alternative to working more hours, or have trouble seeing homework and classes as equal in importance to their job. The group also served as a clearing-house for productive ways to connect with students, for them to work together and learn from each other.
The participants emerged with renewed enthusiasm and desire to apply the techniques and ideas from the workshop in their first-year experience courses. Follow-up surveys and focus groups will be used to measure the effect of the program and explore the idea of repeating it in the future.
The program was funded by a grant from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
The participating PNC faculty included Cynthia Zdanczyk, Heather Fielding, Anthony Sindone, Sarah White, Lindsay Gielda, Martha Garcia-Saenz, Jason Sarver, Vanessa Quinn, Debra Pratt and Pat Cannon.
The participating Calumet faculty included Gerardo Castillo, Chandramuli V. Chandramouli, Magesh Chandramouli, Lori Feldman, Catherine Gillotti, Barbara Mania-Farnell, Tom Mihail, Richard Rupp and Valencia L. Williams. The workshop organizing committee members were Beth Pellicciotti, Michael Lynn, Rex Morrow, John Rowan, José Peña, Karen Bishop-Morris, Linda Atkinson and Paul Hecht.