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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Mission: To give our students the best possible start at NC State, we will intensify our efforts aimed at first-year students. Our First-Year Inquiry (FYI) courses provide students with a small class setting that enables them to develop a connection with a faculty member and a group of peers. FYI instructors are trained in a pedagogical approach tailored to develop critical and creative thinking as well as written and oral communication skills that help students become independent learners.

Background and History of the First-Year Inquiry Program at NC State University

Hewlett Foundation Proposal

Tooling up to Teach an FYI Class - Workshops for FYI Faculty

FYI and FYC Learning Communities

 

Hewlett Foundation Proposal
In the fall of 1995, the Provost's Office received an invitation from the Hewlett Foundation to propose a project, to be funded by Hewlett, that would address General Education issues at a Research I institution, and specifically propose ways to harness the power implicit in the research engines for general education. Perhaps what Hewlett expected was proposals that would put top researchers into General Education classes and General Education students into research labs. What we gave them was a proposal that we adopt "Inquiry Guided Learning" (IGL) strategies in some General Education courses so that students would be better prepared to pursue inquiry seriously within their majors.

Hewlett funded the project. Fifty Hewlett Faculty Fellows were identified, and the group set to work planning ways to IGL in their own courses and ways to join General Education with high-powered research.

Two years later, we emerged with two determinations:
- a need for a first-year inquiry program and,
- need for a program coordinating the results of the first-year inquiry program with other General Education courses and both of these with the major, so that the total university experience would be one of developing habits and skills of inquiry.

First Year Inquiry Program Begins
The initial First-Year Inquiry courses were offered in the fall of 1999. The Hewlett Steering Committee tentatively set 20 as the enrollment limit for the classes. The faculty was charged to find ways to make the small-class size contribute both to unusually strong success in the cognitive content of the course and also to the over-all objective of beginning to develop a sense of, taste for, and skills in inquiry. This objective implied three assessable outcomes:

- taking charge of one's thinking--development of the ability to think critically
- growing beyond dualism and relativism--intellectual maturity
- taking responsibility for one's own education

Seven FYI courses comprised the Fall 1999 semester. The Spring 2000 semester offered three FYI sections of PHI 205, "The Moral Community." There are always more FYI sections in the fall than in the spring semester.
The number of FYI sections offered per semester is as follows:

Fall 1999
7
Spring 2000
3
Fall 2000
16
Spring 2001
14
Summer 2001
8
Fall 2001
30
Spring 2002
16
Summer 2002
5
Fall 2002
40
Spring 2003
15
Summer 2003
4
Fall 2003
34
Spring 2004
23
Fall 2004
36

NC State administrators have given strong endorsements of the FYI program and have funded it from tuition- and enrollment-increase funds. Provost Cooper has said that classes for first-year students that are small and where they work only with other first-year students can be very important for their future at the university.


What is a reasonable target for the FYI program?
Should a small-class experience be available to all first-year students? Should we enlarge the program until 85% of first-year students have an FYI opportunity available to them? Since no one is talking about requiring students to take an FYI course, it seems likely that expansion should stop when sections begin to go unfilled. So far, only a few experimental courses have been underenrolled. Courses of which FYI sections are offered are courses that meet General Education Requirements or are highly attractive courses for first-year students for other reasons. Students are not being asked to enroll in these courses just because they deal with interesting and important topics. The course must advance their educational program as well as advance their ability to think critically and grow intellectually.

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Tooling up to Teach an FYI Class - Workshops for FYI Faculty
It takes expertise and understanding to teach an FYI section effectively. It is not easy to work explicitly toward the program's objective - developing a sense of inquiry at the same time that one is working toward the cognitive outcomes that are the objective of each course. For faculty to use the small-class format in ways that will help students achieve both the FYI outcomes and the cognitive goals of the particular course requires careful planning, which in turn requires time and effort.

During the course of the semester, FYI faculty teaching for the first or second time meet monthly enhance their teaching, assessment strategies,and share successes and challenges. Faculty teaching for a third time or more may participate in a group but on a volunteer basis

Sample Workshops:
What is the FYI Program? At the end of each semester, all the FYI faculty for the next semester get together to discuss the objective and outcomes of the program. They discuss what exactly do "sense of inquiry" and "intellectual maturity" mean? Does critical thinking mean the same thing in history as in physics? How are we going to assess the effectiveness of the program? Who defines what "effective" means" Who designs the assessment?

What is Inquiry-Guided Learning? In this workshop, FYI faculty work toward a common understanding of IGL by applying it to one or two particular cases. Faculty particularly appreciate what they hear and learn from faculty in disciplines very different from their own. Generally, the workshop is offered in two sittings, and faculty may go to one or the other.

Teaching Strategies and Assessments Faculty need the opportunity to work on specific plans to work toward specific goals and specific ways to assess how effective the plans were. Typically people share their ideas, plans, successes and fears with one another.

Faculty Stipend
Faculty who teach FYI sections for the first and second time will receive a stipend of $1000.00. These faculty will be expected to attend orientation meetings, pre-program workshops, and monthly team meetings.

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FYI and First Year College (FYC) Village "Linked" courses

The First-Year College is a program for about 800 students who think about university education comprehensively before deciding on a major. To that end, they take a one-credit- hour course each semester in the first year. These classes are typically small. The program also has significant residential and programmatic component.

In the fall of 2001, an experimental format took all the FYC students who had enrolled in the same FYI course and put them into the same section of the FYC one-credit course. Furthermore, all the students in a given pair of sections live in the same residential unit. This format enables students to see one another inside and outside of class, enhances their opportunities to continue discussion on course topics outside the classroom and to bring issues from outside the class into the class for scrutiny and clarification.

That experiment proved very successful, and each fall several "linked" sections are offered. The format allows for field trips, synergy between assignments and pedadogy in the 2 courses, and helps build camaraderie among students. Assessments show that students in linked courses enjoy considerable benefits in their subsequent university career.

Today FYI operates under the auspices of NCSU's Division of Academic & Student Affairs [DASA].