The General Education Taskforce (GETF) and the General Education Council (GEC) members agreed that a first-year seminar (FYS) course will provide an intimate educational experience, integrating knowledge and skills within an academic discipline and connecting students to UCA. Further, students would be introduced to the intended outcomes of the UCA Core, the way those outcomes will be assessed, and the expectations of their performance as they progress through the university. A variety of courses could be used for the first-year seminar. However, no department is required to put forth a course as a first-year seminar. Any course proposed as a first-year seminar must address the goals and outcomes of the appropriate academic area in the lower-division core (e.g. Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, Responsible Living, etc.) The intent of the first-year seminar is to emphasize academic knowledge and skills, not to teach study skills as content.
The FYS courses would be specially designed and would address Communications outcomes, including written communication and collaboration, and either the Critical Inquiry, Diversity, or Responsible Living outcomes. Faculty members would be chosen by their department chairs on the basis of teaching effectiveness and willingness to adapt their course and approach to fit the FYS guidelines
(listed below). Since allowing a FYS to count in place of a lower-division communication course would run counter to the GETF’s recommendation that we increase student requirements in communication, a FYS could be offered in any area used to fulfill one of the lower- division Core requirements except communication requirements.
Required content of the FYS should include the following:
- Written discourse, which will be assessed using the writing rubric (Communication, Goal 1, Outcome B);
- Collaboration, which will be assessed using the collaboration rubric (Communication, Goal 1, Outcome C;
- An orientation to the UCA Core mission, purpose, and general learning outcomes, which will be integrated into the course and assessed (The assessment rubric title is “First-Year Seminar General Education and UCA Core Assessment.”)
- A focus on the basic principles of the discipline, which will allow the course to fulfill one of the lower-division Core requirements other than communications.
Assessments in these areas will be required for a course section to receive the FYS designation. Obviously, not all sections of a particular course will be offered as a FYS. Only sections which meet the specific requirements would be included in this category. As a 3-credit academic course, the FYS would not use class time to address the aspects of the university typically associated with orientation (e.g. health services, the counseling center, etc.); however, instructors would be informed about these resources so they could recommend them as needed to students. A list of all university services would be given to FYS instructors (with appropriate training regarding what to look for, etc.). The expectation is that FYS instructors would be aware of and able to refer students to special services (e.g., the Academic Success Center, the Writing Center, the Counseling Center, etc.) and have an understanding of how to weave basic academic success skills into the course without diluting academic content. The list of resources could also be made available via Blackboard or some other venue for the students in the class.
Additional considerations for first-year seminars include the following:
- Class size must be small (25 students or fewer);
- Faculty must be selected by the department chair and have demonstrated an aptitude for high impact teaching;
- FYS faculty will agree to participate in more thorough assessment and additional training as needed (e.g. in teaching writing skills, developing collaborative assignments, etc.)
While the recommendation would be that FYS be taken in a student’s first semester, it is expected that some students will need to take it the second semester. Transfer students with more than 30 hours of transfer credit would not be required to take a FYS.