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Freshman Interest Groups and the First-Year Experience: Constructing Student Communities in a Large University

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A qualitative case study of Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs) was carried out at a large, public, research university. The intent of the study was to understand how participation in a FIG influenced students' learning experiences, and how those experiences fit in with broader experiences as first-year students. Three one-week site visits were made; data collection consisted of participant observation in 12 classrooms and 43 interviews with 24 students. Three themes are reported here. First, FIGs allowed students to interact repeatedly with a consistent set of peers across their classes. This, in turn, enabled students to form a social network in which other academic support mechanisms could begin to operate. Finally, writing link classes enabled students to become engaged with their course content at the same time as they continued their social interactions. The balance of students' social engagement with their academic engagement demonstrates the potential of FIGs to influence students' first-year experience.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1994

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  • The Journal of The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition is a semiannual refereed journal providing current research on the first college year and other significant student transitions. The primary purpose of the Journal is to disseminate empirical research findings on student transition issues that inform practice in all sectors of postsecondary education, such as explorations into the academic, personal, and social experiences (including outcomes related to success, learning, and development) of students at a range of transition points throughout the college years; transition issues unique to specific populations (e.g., non-traditional, traditional, historically underrepresented students, transfer students, commuters, part-time students); and explorations of faculty development, curriculum, and pedagogical innovations connected to college transitions.
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