Wednesday, December 28, 2016

First-year Seminar syllabus share

In 2013, a few communication colleagues were tapped to teach our college's inaugural First-year Seminar (FYS) course. With student learning objectives (SLOs) handed down from the university, we began to craft a course to meet those objectives. So, on the road between Stephenville, Texas, and Norman, Okla., Dr. Lora Helvie-Mason (author of Communication & Higher Education blog) and I developed activities and assignments to help students make the transition from high school to university, in a mandatory one-hour course.

Through weekly reflective writings, a collaborative original research project and presentation, required attendance at campus events, readings (Tina Seelig's inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity), and a predetermined financial literacy module, the course came together. In our first semester, we were a bit ambitious, but wanted to hold the line of academic rigor. Here is the original syllabus, and you can see how it has adapted based on student feedback and faculty reflection to the 2016 syllabus.

One of our challenges was catering to the many and varied majors in our college, from criminal justice to geography to fine arts to social work to communication studies. We created choices where possible, to allow students to tailor projects to their interests. In the syllabus file, you can see the reflective writing prompts, which gave students some room for major and career exploration as well as multicultural exposure.

The collaborative original research project and presentation was something we tried, in order to tackle multiple SLOs. Students followed activists on Twitter for a mixed methods research paper with an oral conference-style presentation. Lora and I chronicled this project for our own teaching and learning research endeavors. Two journal articles will be published. One explains the project details and the other looked at student perceptions of their learning.

  • Helvie-Mason, L., Maben, S. K. (in press). Twitter-vism: Student Narratives and Perceptions of Learning from an Undergraduate Research Experience on Twitter Activism. Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication. aejmc.us/spig/journal/
  • Maben, S. K., Helvie-Mason, L. (in press). When Twitter Meets Undergraduate Research:  A First-year Seminar Project. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 29(1). www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/

I applaud anyone who teaches FYS/FYE courses. They are rewarding, and the challenge to incorporate so much into a one-hour course is a stimulating curricular exercise for a prof. My contribution was for one semester, and I'm excited to think that many of my FYS'rs are getting ready to graduate! Lora and I are following up with our first cohort to see what FYS course elements stuck with them, and what mattered most to their successful transition to college.  Stay tuned for those results!

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