Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Freshman Experience

Here's a piece about how large universities are trying to manage the freshman experience:
"Overwhelmed freshmen in many places still sit anonymously in large lecture halls, surrounded by hundreds of peers whose names the professor couldn't possibly remember. Dorm life isn't much better, with total-stranger roommates sharing little other than a desire to survive those first rocky semesters...

"Nearly one-third of Missouri's 5,620 first-year students participate in freshmen interest groups, or FIGs. They share rooms with each other, or entire sections of residential housing. They take four courses together, making the oversized auditoriums 'psychologically smaller,' as one university official says.

"And they meet in small groups with a peer adviser who helps them navigate the school bureaucracy while offering tips on time management, and how to speak with professors...

"At the University of Michigan, first-year students are paired with faculty researchers and participate in weekly forums as part of the Michigan Research Community.

"At Illinois, the Weston Exploration program allows students to tap the expertise of academic advisers, career counselors and other resources on the 41,918-student campus."

These programs might be a good start, but I worry the problem runs deeper. Curricula are currently set up with the mindset that topics are general, and therefore more students can sit there and learn them. However, these courses are also critical for skill development, which requires more individual attention.



Anonymous K said...

I honestly think the whole thing is ridiculous. Half the point of freshman-hood is learning to live on your own - not to have your hand held by an institution that has become "babysitter" more often than a place of learning. Let them figure out their own lives and they'll be the better for it.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Brian Ulrich said...

I can see that argument, though support institutional training wheels. As I said, I'm mainly worried about pedagogy and skill development issues.

5:31 PM  

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