Development of the First Year Learning Initiative
FYLI began in Spring 2011 with the broad charge of addressing student academic success in the first year of college. Program leaders designed the program by first consulting with a diverse body of NAU faculty and staff known as innovators in effective teaching and student success. These innovators – who formed the FYLI Leadership Group – revealed that student success is critically determined by the adoption of attitudes and behaviors consistent with being a successful college student – everything from attending class to self-accountability for academic work. Fortunately, these attitudes and behaviors are malleable; according to our experts, students can be intentionally guided to adopt them with the right kinds of course design and communication strategies.
Through these discussions, it also came to light that the “traditional” lower division course design – characterized by passive, lecture based pedagogy and slow wind-up to infrequent, high-stakes assignments – is particularly disadvantageous to early career college students. The first few days and weeks of a course, in particular, need to get across to students that the course will be engaging and challenging, something that is unlikely under the traditional approach.
These discussions with NAU experts echo a number of themes that emerge in the scholarly literature on best practices in pedagogy and design. Ultimately, scholarly sources and the wisdom of experience from NAU experts both shaped the final version of FYLI’s philosophy and approach.