Assessing the Impact of First-Year Seminars

Grant recipient: Dai Heide, Department of Philosophy,

Project team: Lara Aknin, Department of Psychology, and Kevin Laughren, Department of Economics

Timeframe: July 2017 to October 2018

Funding: $6000

Courses addressed: Various 100-level FASS courses

Description: FASSFirst is a set of ten pilot seminars for domestic first-year students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Seminars, which will be limited to 25 students, will be taught by highly-regarded permanent members of the FASS faculty. The rationale for offering the seminars is twofold. First, we believe that offering students this kind of first-year experience will positively impact their GPA and their overall well-being in addition to reducing the likelihood that they will leave the university without graduating. Second, we believe that such seminars will allow students to develop closer bonds with faculty and to feel more closely connected with SFU and with their peers at an early stage in their academic careers.

This Teaching and Learning Development Grant project is to design a study that will assess the success of FASSFirst over the long term looking at the effect of participation on CGPA, student retention, student engagedness and well-being, and student satisfaction

Questions addressed:

  • Does a seminar improve student engagement and/or wellness?
  • Does a seminar improve GPA in other first year courses?
  • Does a seminar improve first year retention?
  • What other student characteristics are predictive of retention into second year?

Dissemination: FASS is deeply committed to the success of this project and will be arguing for its continuation. The results of this study will be disseminated throughout the faculty: at faculty-level committees and to administrators who will play a role in determining its fate. We will also be making an effort to present our results to individual faculty members, not merely for their own edification, but also to generate even further interest from them. Eventually, we would like wide participation from faculty across the faculty.

If the assessment reveals that participation in a first-year seminar has a significant impact on any of the studied factors, then the study will be of great interest to university-level educators across North America. We will aim to disseminate our results through conference presentations and publication.