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Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost

First Year Success

Year 2 Milestones

  • Using both direct and indirect assessment measures, we collected data from AY 2011-12 to assess the effectiveness of the teaching methods in the Cornerstone course and made the following changes: streamlined course assignments and rearranged the order of topics in the curriculum material to better meet the needs of first-year students.

  • Building on the assessment data from the ten sections of First-Year Cornerstone courses piloted in 2011-12, we recruited and prepared 16 faculty (10 new) to teach 21 sections in AY 2012-13, with the help of the 23 peer teaching assistants.

  • We integrated the Common Read selection with the Reaching for Higher Ground initiative more formally for the purpose of increasing involvement between first-year students and the campus and larger community early on.

  • We determined how to use NSSE and MAP-Works data to assess existing first-year outcomes, and as a result, we have a baseline for assessment going forward and data to compare students who do and do not take the Cornerstone course.

  • There is now an online faculty development repository for teaching the Oral Communication portion of the course, and a written manual for teaching the writing portion of the class which standardizes best practices.

  • We launched a first-year student resources web page at http://www.uni.edu/orientation/first-year  in order to provide one stop access to all UNI resources pertinent to first-year students, cutting across both academic and non-academic departments. By promoting awareness of this resource to faculty who may be the first person a student might turn to, we enable them to help students quickly.

  • We surveyed faculty on effectiveness of first-year only classes at UNI and discovered they would benefit from the assistance of peer mentors which were added and expanded on in AY 2012-13.

  • We worked with University Relations to develop a first-year marketing logo which will allow for consistent and unified messaging to multiple constituents across the variety of first-year programs.

 

Cornerstone Course

UNI’s First-Year Cornerstone course gives first-year students the opportunity to experience integrated programs and was introduced during the 2011-2012 academic year as a six-credit, two-semester course with three goals in mind for students – communication (both writing and speaking), student success, and civility (or the ability to interact well with others). With Cornerstone, instead of students taking an oral communication or writing course separately, the two are integrated, so writing and speaking assignments are tied together.

Building on the assessment data from the ten sections of First-Year Cornerstone course piloted in 2011-12, we recruited and prepared 16 faculty (10 new) to teach 21 sections in AY 2012-13 with the help of the undergraduate peer teaching assistants.

 

Common Read

In AY 2011-12, the first Cornerstone students read “Zeitoun” by David Eggers, which tells the story of a Syrian-American man who stayed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina to protect his property.  In the aftermath of the hurricane and bursting of the levees, he spent days assisting those who were stranded. He was eventually arrested and held as a suspected Al Qaeda member. The book raises issues of race and culture in American society, providing an opportunity to stimulate reflection and critical thinking and dove-tailed nicely with the theme of Reaching for Higher Ground: Community after 9/11.  

Immediately after, plans were made to integrate the next year’s Common Read selection, “The Warmth of Other Suns:  The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson even more closely with the next Reaching for Higher Ground Project, which invites the campus and greater community to come together around speakers and film that help examine “the Search for an American Dream”.  Students will fulfill assignments throughout the year tied to Wilkerson's book, such as finding their own migration story, writing a paper on it, and then giving a speech on one portion of the story. Since many in the larger community of Cedar Falls have shown their eagerness to participate in the President’s Reaching for Higher Ground (RHG) Project, the author’s lecture becomes one of the RHG events, with students and faculty/staff encouraged to participate in book discussions that include the larger community, as well as in other Project events.

 

Assessment Plan

There are many things being done to assess whether UNI is meeting its first-year learning outcomes. We determined how to use the National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE) and MAP-Works  (“Making Achievement Possible”) data to assess existing first-year outcomes, and as a result, we have a baseline for assessment going forward and data to compare students who do and do not take UNI’s First-Year Cornerstone course.

In addition, an assessment plan for the First-Year Cornerstone course was developed in a faculty workshop in Summer, 2011, and first implemented during AY 2011-12. Data from pre- and post-course administration of a SALG (Student Assessment of Learning Gains) student survey were compiled and analyzed. A random selection of student portfolios, with work including student writing and videotaped oral presentations, were analyzed in June 2012 and compared with work from student portfolios evaluated in December 2011. Results indicate gains in student learning in writing, speaking, student success, and civility issues. Revisions to the assessment plan were made for AY 2012-13, based on results from AY 2011-12.

 

Resources Delivery

UNI launched a first-year student resources web page at http://www.uni.edu/orientation/first-year  in order to provide one stop access to all UNI resources pertinent to first-year students, cutting across both academic and non-academic departments. By promoting awareness of this resource to faculty who may be the first person a student might turn to, we enable them to help students quickly.

In addition, for the UNI First-Year Cornerstone course, there is now an online faculty development repository for teaching the Oral Communication portion of the course, and a written manual for teaching the writing portion of the class which standardizes best practices.