First Year Inquiry Program......for students who want more!

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Division of Academic & Student Affairs [DASA]
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina

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In 1996 the Hewlett Foundation invited NC State to submit a proposal dealing with general education at a Research I university. The Council on Undergraduate Education responded to this challenge, the application was successful, and the Hewlett Initiative began its two-year program in the fall of 1997.One of the results of the Hewlett Initiative was a conviction felt by many of its participants that a first-year seminar, in which students become genuine inquirers, could make a significant impact on subsequent general education experiences, as well as courses in the major. An FYI program seemed like a good way to begin changing the way students approach all their university courses, including large lecture courses. First Year Inquiry pilot seminars began in the fall of 1999 with seven offerings, followed by three in the spring of 2000, seventeen in fall ’00, and eleven in spring ‘01. The purposes of the pilot are
(1) to see what difference these courses make in students’ overall learning;
(2) to learn how to integrate what students gain in this program with subsequent courses so that each student’s general education and major program are deepened; and,
(3) to identify problems involved in offering FYI courses and strategies for institutionalizing the program if it turns out to be valuable.


Objectives of FYI Courses
1. Help students develop a sense of inquiry and of responsibility for their own learning.
If they really want to know the answers to questions they are really asking, they will also see that responsibility for their lives and for their education are interrelated. When students are committed to their own learning, faculty can get more across. Both learning and teaching are more rewarding. More happens.
2. Foster intellectual development and growth toward intellectual maturity.
Education is more than "just learning the facts;" we aspire to push students to the upper reaaches of Bloom's taxonomy of cognitive activity.
Judgments can be made poorly or well, and the fact that there is no calculus for judgments does not mean that they are merely subjective or that all judgments are equally good or bad.
3. Provide guided practice in critical and creative thinking. Through guided practice, students can learn explicitly to evaluate the depth, breadth, clarity, and relevance of the answers they find to their questions. We also aspire to improve their ability to create original interpretations, analyses, or syntheses--creative thinking.
4. Provide guided practice in writing, speaking, listening, asking questions, looking for answers, and evaluating evidence.

Objectves Implicit in the Above Four
When the program began, other objectives were discussed, but as the program has evolved, attention has increasingly focused on the four goals listed above.
The other objectives, which now seem to be implicit in the four, are:

  • Help students become eager for courses meeting general education program (GEP) requirements.
    They really want answers to questions they are really asking, and they understand that GEP courses will help.

  • Help students understand that hard work and increasingly deep thinking are required to answer these questions.
    Good will, noble intentions, intellectual curiosity are not enough.

  • Raise students’ awareness of the complexity of the questions they are asking, and the aesthetic, economic, ethical, political, and technical dimensions of the disciplines that will be involved in answering them.


Pedagogy in FYI Courses
The basic principle is this: ANY pedagogy that moves students toward these objectives is a good one.

Here are some remarks to amplify that principle:

1. The term "Inquiry-guided learning" captures a good deal of what an appropriate pedagogy looks like. This was the term that the Council on Undergraduate Education used in its successful grant application to the Hewlett Foundation, and it has served as the anchoring concept for the Hewlett Initiative. "Inquiry-guided learning" means that the class is conducted by working toward and on questions to which students really want to know the answer. And so faculty devote time, energy and attention to arousing students’ interest and eagerness for answers and directing the students toward them. FYI courses are in the spirit of and responsive to the 1996 position statement adopted by the Council on Undergraduate Education on "Increasing Student Responsibility for, Involvement in, and Commitment to Learning."

There is no one way to do Inquiry-guided learning, and what works for one faculty member may not work for others. Some of the possible ways are:
a. Strategies listed on the FYI Instructor Help page
b. Use of a challenging text. Student-generated questions about it. Faculty-generated questions on applying it
b. Break-out group (task-oriented small group discussions)
d. Student reports
e. Student journal of observations and questions
f. Guest speaker followed by question-and-answer session
g. Use of the language of critical thinking, such as "standards of critical thinking;" differences among facts, opinions, judgments
2. Many faculty combine several of these strategies in every class session. They can also be effectively combined with twenty or thirty minutes of straight lecturing. Students who are developing the habit of asking questions will continue to ask questions during lectures, and lectures themselves can be structured to foster the spirit of inquiry by continuously raising questions, sometimes leaving them temporarily unanswered.


What is Expected of FYI Instructors?

All Faculty:
-- Offer a "Q" class that moves students toward the objectives listed above.
-- Attend development workshops available at the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning or sponsored by the FYI Program. These workshops give faculty the opportunity to think through the objectives of the FYI program and to talk with other faculty about specific strategies for their particular courses.
--Develop course objectives and student outcomes that are included in the course syllabus.
--Develop rubric for course assessment.
--Report assessment results at the end of the semester.
Faculty who are teaching beyond the second "Q" semester, are invited to participate in monthly faculty meetings but are not required to do so.
New Faculty Only:
-- Attend an orientation meeting held near the end of the semester that precedes the one in which they will teach an FYI course and monthly workshops the semester they are teaching..
Faculty teaching for the first and second time:
--Participate in monthly meetings in which faculty members who teach for the first and second time in the FYI program work toward a common understanding of the objectives of the FYI program, discuss the appropriate ways to assess the program, compare notes on teaching methods, share their frustrations and their successes, their questions and their bag of tricks.
--Attend workshop/seminar (when available) presenting guest lecturers who are experts in fields of critical thinking, etc.

Faculty who have already taught an FYI section may provide mentoring for new FYI faculty.

If faculty wish to offer an FYI course that is a new course, they must follow SOP for new course proposal and approval beginning with submission of the Course Action Form which includes a complete syllabus, catalog description, statement of objectives, course justification, GER listing and justification. Approval should take place one semester before the starting date for the course. For further details about this process go to Undergraduate Academic Programs.


Faculty Stipend

Faculty who teach FYI sections for the first time receive a stipend of $1000.00 and are asked to sign a MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT (MOA) that outlines faculty participation in the FYI program. By signing this MOA, faculty agree that award of the stipend is contingent upon completion of the tasks and responsibilites outlined in the agreement.


The Impact of FYI
If the FYI program has a lasting impact on its students, it will mean that even in large-enrollment courses they will continue to take charge of their learning. They will monitor their learning, and recognize when they are not understanding something. If they are bored and unmotivated, they will recognize it and have an idea of what to do about it. They will seek out courses and instructors that offer the kind of experience that their FYI course offered because they will want that experience to be reinforced and built upon
If the FYI program succeeds, it will be because it is part of a larger movement. Students seeking additional Inquiry-guided learning classes will be able to find them in their sophomore and junior courses because the two generations of Hewlett Scholars now includes over one hundred faculty who understand the principles of Inquiry-guided learning to make it work.This larger movement also now includes the Hewlett Challenge in which ten departments are studying the curriculum for their majors and reviewing one or two courses in view of both their curricular objectives for the major as a whole and the principles of Inquiry-guided learning. It seems reasonable to expect that ten models for building on the FYI experience are emerging in this process. This program is funded by a second grant from the Hewlett Foundation.
In September 2000, we received a grant from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE, a grant program of the Department of Education) to plan an expanded assessment of all the emerging components of an emerging comprehensive IGL program- the first-year inquiry courses, general-education courses that use IGL pedagogy, and the inquiry-guided experiences within the major culminating in senior research and capstone-course projects.
This assessment aims at the extremely difficult task of doing longitudinal evaluation:
Is the FYI program really integrated with subsequent experiences and does the program as a whole make a measurable difference in students’ learning?

Impact on Students
If the FYI program pays off, it will mean that students really are getting more out of their whole general-education experience and are better prepared to be inquiring, self-motivated learners within their major programs.
They will pay a different kind of attention in classes that aren’t specifically designed as IGL.
.........They will continue their growth as inquirers in subsequent general education courses.
They will select courses that are inquiry-driven.
They will be ready to begin research projects in their major field.


What is Inquiry-guided learning?
Inquiry-guided learning (IGL) refers to an array of classroom practices that promotes student learning through guided and, increasingly, independent investigation of questions and problems for which there are no single answer. Rather than teaching the results of others’ investigations, which students learn passively, instructors assist students in mastering and learning through the process of active investigation itself.
This process involves the ability to formulate good questions, identify and collect appropriate evidence, present results systematically, analyze and interpret results, formulate conclusions, and evaluate the worth and importance of those conclusions. It may also involve the ability to identify problems, examine problems, generate possible solutions, and select the best solution with appropriate justification.
This process will differ somewhat among different academic disciplines.

Learning in this way promotes other important outcomes as well. It nurtures curiosity, initiative, and risk taking. It promotes critical thinking. It develops students’ responsibility for their own learning and habits of life-long learning. And it fosters intellectual development and maturity: the recognition that ambiguity and uncertainty are inevitable, and in response, we must learn to make reasoned judgments and act in ways consistent with these judgments

.A variety of teaching strategies, used singly or, more often, in combination with one another, is consistent with Inquiry-guided learning: interactive lecture, discussion, group work, case studies, problem-based learning, service learning, simulations, fieldwork, and labs as well as many others.

In fact the only method that is not consistent with IGL is the exclusive use of straight lecturing and the posing of questions for which there are only one correct answer.

In addition, because of the nature of the outcomes it promotes and the necessity for active engagement, Inquiry-guided learning must also involve writing and speaking both in classroom instruction and in the methods used to evaluate students. While Inquiry-guided learning is appropriate in all classes, it is most effective in small classes (i.e., approximately 20 students). It is particularly appropriate for first year students who are forming habits of learning that they will exercise throughout their undergraduate years and beyond. Finally, the rest of the undergraduate curriculum should reinforce these early learning experiences.

Originated by The Hewlett Steering Committee, September 2000, last updated May 29, 2014


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