First Year Experience

A lively discussion of teaching experiences, evidence-based techniques, and creative solutions to the challenges of teaching and learning that occurs the first friday of the month.

 First Year Experience

April's discussion explored creative solutions to the challenges of acclimating, engaging, guiding, and teaching first year students so that they emerge as extraordinary collegiate learners, innovators, and citizens. 

Talented, caring professors can help students see their strengths, accept their areas for growth and learning, and navigate the rich experience of their first year at UT.

 Professors who teach first year students:

  • have an opportunity like no other to change the trajectory of new students' lives. 
  • can embolden students’ willingness to step into the unknown and move towards independent inquiry and add to the knowledge base.
  • can “light a fire“ - make a difference in students' lives, connect with them, and challenge them

Our aim is to equip first year students with the academic and intellectual tools they need to excel as college students and beyond.  

The challenge is to use content to teach new college students how to be effective thinkers and communicators (both through written and oral word), to discern good from bad information, to look at issues from a variety of disciplinary lenses, and to have assignments that actively engage students as partners in their own learning processes. The key is incorporating varied perspectives, interpretations, and experiences in the classroom.

"Discussions should challenge students and not simply reinforce their own ideas."

                                                                            Prabhudev Konana 

If a truly “safe” environment is created, students will disagree with each other – and maybe even with the professor.   We must carve out a safe place for students to have difficult dialogues – while much of this is intuitive, it can also be learned and improved.  It goes without saying that there is no substitute for warmth, genuineness, passion, and enthusiasm. Skill wise, several of the professors have found that dyads or groups for tough discussions prepare students for the real world.

Jim Vick emphasizes the importance of creating and maintaining ongoing relationships with students beyond the classroom.  First year students are undergoing a major transition and navigating personal, academic, professional, and relationship realms all at once.  As Penne Restad poignantly concludes, “There's so much social ferment going on, and we're asking them for intellectual ferment at the same time.”