WWC review of this study

Measuring the impact of a university first-year experience program on student GPA and retention.

Jamelske, E. (2009). Higher Education, 57(3), 373–391. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ825726

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
     examining 
    1,869
     Students
    , grade
    PS
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations

Reviewed: July 2016

Academic achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

College GPA

First Year Experience Courses vs. Business as usual

1 Year

College students;

N/A

N/A

Yes

 
 
6
Credit accumulation and persistence outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
index

Enrollment

First Year Experience Courses vs. Business as usual

1 Year

College students;

N/A

N/A

Yes

--

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 60%
    Male: 40%
  • Race
    White
    93%
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    Midwest

Setting

The study took place at a medium-sized public university in the midwestern United States. A total of 100 first year experience course sections were offered to students in the fall of 2006.

Study sample

In the overall sample of students, 40% were male, 93% were White, the average age was 18.6 (SD = .34) years, 16% were from low-income households, 42% were first generation college students, and the average ACT score was 24.3 (SD = 2.87).

Intervention Group

The first-year experience (FYE) program in this study was designed to offer academic and extracurricular services to first-time freshmen and to help integrate participating students into the university setting. The university offers 100 different FYE course sections, and almost all (> 85%) first-time freshmen enroll in an FYE course. The FYE courses are linked to a specific course topic (e.g., biology, economics, algebra, calculus, psychology, Spanish) and involve small group peer activities (FYEs were capped at 20 students for enrollment), close work with a faculty member, and a student peer mentor. The FYE program goals are to introduce students to core course content, enhance academic skills (including content knowledge, study skills, time management, etc.), strengthen connections to the university, engage students in out-of-class activities, and enhance student accountability. The FYE also aims to foster connections with at least one faculty member and provide a peer educational learning community. Regardless of whether teaching an FYE or non-FYE course, instructors must cover the same basic topical materials (i.e., both FYE and non-FYE biology must cover the same biology content), and grades must be determined on comparable assignments and exams. The author noted that integrating the FYE material without compromising the original core course was difficult, and that the time commitment for extracurricular activities was problematic for FYE faculty.

Comparison Group

Students in the comparison condition were full-time, first-year college students who did not enroll in any FYE course sections during fall 2006. These students enrolled in courses typical of first-year students at the university.

Support for implementation

Informal, voluntary faculty and peer mentor training workshops were provided, with no procedures to hold instructors accountable for meeting program goals. There was no formal application process for selecting FYE faculty and no added value placed on performance reviews for teaching FYE.

 

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