Assessing the Impact of First-Year Seminars

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Dai Heide, Department of Philosophy

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

Timeframe: July 2017 to July 2019

Funding: $6000

Courses addressed: FASS 101 - FASSFirst

Final report: View Dai Heide's final report (PDF)

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?

Knowledge sharing: I have spoken with colleagues in FASS and in Economics about both the study design and the preliminary results. Kevin Laughren, who designed the study, has prepared a paper based on the study to submit for publication. My understanding is that the paper is currently under review.

Keywords: FASSFirst, retention, first-year seminars, small group learning