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LEAPing Over the Achievement Gap: Minority Students and Academic Success in a First-Year Interest Groups Program Greg Smith Kari Fernholz University of.

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Presentation on theme: "LEAPing Over the Achievement Gap: Minority Students and Academic Success in a First-Year Interest Groups Program Greg Smith Kari Fernholz University of."— Presentation transcript:

1 LEAPing Over the Achievement Gap: Minority Students and Academic Success in a First-Year Interest Groups Program Greg Smith Kari Fernholz University of Wisconsin-Madison

2 Agenda Issues Facing Students of Color on a Majority White Campus
Essential Learning Outcomes and FIGs Assessment Results: Student Achievement What Students Have to Say Questions/Discussion

3 The Experience of Minority Students on a Majority White Campus
Social Estrangement and Alienation Inadequate Academic Integration Sense of Powerlessness, Lack of Self-Efficacy

4 One Solution: Learning Communities
A learning community Is a curricular structure that provides students with opportunities to integrate learning through intense intellectual and social coherence and engagement Provides curricular and environmental experiences that enhance students’ ability to connect socially and academically with the university Creates intentional and substantive interaction with peers and faculty

5 First-Year Interest Groups Outcomes Results of National Research
Higher retention rates Higher grade point averages Higher levels of academic integration and institutional commitment More informal interaction with faculty outside of class Higher levels of interaction with peers Higher levels of integration of course information Greater gains in communication skills High student satisfaction, esp. out-of-state students and students of color

6 Mission of UW-Madison FIGs
Assist students as they make the transition from high school to the university classroom; create social-academic connections among peers, between students and faculty Support general education goals Support efforts to promote diversity education Provide integrative learning experiences Research on student engagement and student success consistently points to the effectiveness of HIPs, including FIGs. FIGs began as a pilot in 2001 (4 FIGs enrolling 76 students; core classes were ENG 100 sections taught by grad students). In 2002, 13 FIGs – all taught by L&S faculty. Eventually, we were able to reach out and attract faculty beyond L&S. Fall 2011 – 58 FIGs options from all schools/colleges except SoHE (including Med School)…8 spring options in spring 2012. MIU funds have spurred the program’s growth – more than doubled in size in two years.

7 Structure of UW-Madison FIGs:
Each FIG enrolls 20 students in 3 linked courses (9-12 credits). Each FIG is designed and led by a faculty member who teaches the “synthesizing course.” The instructor of the “synthesizing course” integrates material from the collateral courses. Faculty collaboration is encouraged but not required. Collaborative arrangements may occur in a variety of ways.

8 Nature and Culture: How Humans Interact with the Natural Environment
20 students English 169: Intro to Modern American Literature 20 students 20 students Nature and Culture FIG ~240 total students ~120 total students Environmental Studies 113: The Humanistic Perspective Botany 260: Introductory Ecology

9 Essential Learning Outcomes and First-Year Interest Groups
Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World Intellectual and Practical Skills Personal and Social Responsibility Integrative and Applied Learning

10 Fall 2012 Freshman Cohort Non-FIGs Cohort 28.3 56% M=48% F=52% 8.9%
ACT Top 10% of high school class % of Males/ Females Targeted Minority Students % of First Generation Students Non-FIGs Cohort 28.3 56% M=48% F=52% 8.9% 16.5% FIGs Cohort 27 52% M=35% F=65% 21% 20.5% FIGs students include a greater proportion of “at risk” students: targeted minority, first-generation. By all expectations, these students should not perform as well as the rest of their peers. Initial hope was that FIGs would bring these at risk students closer to achievement rates of the rest of their peers. Annual assessments: GPAs at end of first semester; also, GPAs at end of 7 semesters. GPAs of targeted minority students. GPAs by ACT scores. End-of-Semester surveys End-of-Semester focus groups (facilitated by OQI) Graduating seniors survey Faculty surveys Faculty focus groups Informal data gathering Integrated learning study Experience of minority students: focus groups surveys interviews student testimonials Majors and FIGs: connections – study begun this semester

11 Fall GPA Comparisons: FIGs and Non FIGs
FIGs students consistently earn higher GPAs than non-FIGs. They also perform at higher levels in large courses connected with FIGs: SOC 134, ANT 104, CHEM 103.

12 Higher achievement levels seen in targeted minority population as well.

13 Fall 2012 Grade Distribution: Minority Students, FIGs and Non-FIGs
68% of minority FIGs students earned 3.0 GPA or higher 58% of minority non-FIGs students earned 3.0 GPA or higher

14 What Students Value about
Integrative Learning Environment Time after time, over years of surveys and focus groups, the things students say they value most about FIGs fit into three main categories… Faculty Mentor Peer Cohort

15 Survey of Minority Students Enrolled in FIGs: How did your FIG experience help your transition to UW-Madison? “The FIG experience was a highly valuable experience in regards to helping me form a community at UW-Madison, because of the fact that our FIG was a community in itself. The twenty students in my FIG were all committed to the same goals as I, and throughout the semester we organized multiple review sessions that helped our overall success throughout the semester.” “My FIG experience helped me create a community at UW-Madison by introducing me to new people, and helping me look at things from other perspectives. The people I worked with in the FIG gave me a greater sense of not being alone when it came to confusion on some of the course work. I was able to form study groups and work with some of these students outside of class, as well as work together on some class projects. Overall, the FIG helped me to expand my presence on the UW campus, and left me with a few new friends.” Forming community: Students often use the word “family” to describe their FIGs Transition: students learn how to be college students, how to study Minority students tell about feeling “marginalized” in their non-FIG classes and often don’t participate fully; in their FIG classes, they feel safe and supported and feel they can participate more. 69% of 2011 FIGs reported using the library for FIG-related projects Taking three classes together Supporting each other in lectures Forming study groups Out-of-class activities supported by FIGs funding: field trips, guest speakers, dinner-study events, concerts, performance (First Wave)

16 Valuing Diversity in FIGs
“In my FIG, 50% are students of color, 50 % are white. But in my [non-FIG] math class, I’m the only non-white kid. And the other 20 are white kids who came from suburban schools… I’m the person on the side because I don’t know anyone else. It’s kind of awkward in that class. My FIG offers a kind of comfortable area, where in all the other classes, I don’t really feel a sense of belonging or a sense of comfort. I tend to participate more in my FIG classes than other classes, and that is what I like about FIGs.” “The students in my FIG are a blend of ethnicities and cultures, further enhancing my education.”

17 Did the integration of class material contribute to your overall learning?
“It was great to have a string of classes that all related to one another. It was really easy to gather ideas learned in one class and see how they applied and were related to another class. I saw that my participation stayed at a high level, as I was able to contribute to discussions easily in a class of no more than twenty. The small class size also made forming study groups easy.” “The integration of class material allowed me to become more in-depth in my learning and analytical. I was able to apply what I learned in one class to another class….so I assimilated the information of what I learned into the other classes. The integration of class material helped me to understand and comprehend my materials better.” “Seeing how material can cross subjects made me realize that it could apply not only in the classroom, but in life and other areas as well. This really helped me academically because it made me WANT to learn the material because I knew there was a purpose for it.” Critical thinking – integrative learning: important aspects of the FIGs experience

18 What was the most important thing you learned about yourself because of your FIG?
“I learned that I learn better when class sizes are small. About myself, I learned that college courses don’t have to be so impersonal. You can always establish a close bond with a classmate, professor, or TA. ” “The most important thing that I learned about myself was my ability to overcome obstacles and the people that I have in my life. My friends who were in the FIG with me were there for me to help me through whatever situations I was going through, as well as I was there for them. This strengthened me as a person, a friend, and a scholar. My perseverance through my classes made me more confident in my abilities, which carried over to other classes and other aspects of my life.”

19 Questions/Discussion

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