Challenges and solutions in non-embedded FYE classes (contributed by Shayne Koplowitz)  

 

As a peer leader of a non-embedded First Year Experience course, you will face a host of challenges. Some of these challenges may be small while others may appear daunting. The benefit of this guide is to help in recognizing such challenges and meeting them head on with solutions. Such trials may involve yourself, the professors and, of course, the students. Issues include, but are not limited to:

         Skewed expectations of your role

         Helping freshmen to recognize the importance of FYE

         Organizing out of class activities

 

Skewed expectations of your role

When it comes to expectations, and performance, standards set by individuals can differ dramatically. Upon training you are informed of the dos and don'ts of being a peer leader. In a non-embedded class you are responsible for attending each FYE class, you are there to help engage freshmen in becoming active participants in the campus community, you are there to help them adjust and offer a student's perspective of topics that are covered by the professor, and you are responsible  for a fifty minute lecture. All of those things seem pretty straight forward, right?  Not exactly. 

                Maybe you do not feel the professor gives you enough time to properly address the students. Perhaps you only get the last thirty seconds of class, which is barely enough to tell them what is happening on campus that week. Maybe you think the professor is giving you tasks to perform with the students that you feel are their responsibility, such as taking over part of their lecture or explaining assignments you may not have a clear grasp on. What if the teacher gives you too much time? Class ends at 1:05, and you have the class from 12:50 until then.  All of those issues reside in a skewing of expectations by both yourself and the professor.  Due to the fact that a non-embedded FYE does not need to cover both an FYE curriculum in addition to the curriculum of a core class, you as a peer leader could easily be faced week to week with all or none of those challenges.

                In order to remedy such issues you should discuss with the professor prior to going in for the first class, what you perceive to be your responsibilities, and what he/she would like from you, and how to best incorporate your role into their FYE experience course. After the first few weeks of classes, in addition to discussing class topics with the professor, you should sit down and reassess the role and responsibilities that has been assigned. Reassessing periodically throughout the semester will help you find out where you may be lacking or overstepping your bounds in the class. The best thing that can be done, if there are challenges regarding expectations in the FYE class, is to sit and discuss such factors with the professor you are working with.

 

Helping freshmen to recognize the importance of FYE

Unlike an embedded FYE class, in which the one credit of FYE a student is taking is built into a larger core class of their area of study, a non-embedded FYE is in many cases taken less seriously by students. You will see students come in with a pre-conceived notion that FYE is pointless; it is not a big deal, and most of all, the myth that it is not even a real class. Those are all concepts and myths that really need to be busted!

                FYE is a real class. It is mandatory of all freshmen and doing poorly in it will impact their GPA negatively. It is important that you as a peer leader help the professor to emphasize the importance in coming to class, and doing the work.

Show your students how doing poorly in FYE can negatively impact them. A lot of professors that teach FYE will use a tool called the GPA calculator. If that is a tool that is used in your class, recommend to all of the students to place an F in place of their grade in FYE101.  Numbers do not lie, and the amount that a potential F, even if it is only one credit, can speak volumes. With an embedded FYE so much of what is done in class is reflective of the area of study rather than FYE, so the 3-4 credits easily show students that this is something to take seriously.  Also inform the freshmen of important dates, events, and other key information that may not be common knowledge to new students.

            Organizing out of class activities

             One of the requirements of an FYE peer leader is to stage or attend an out of class activity with the freshmen. This task can seem daunting, and has a lot of potential complications. Students do not have free time outside of class, commuters do not want to stay in the area later than they need to, and some students are working or taking care of younger siblings or family members.

            Easy ways to try and conquer this challenge include: scheduling the activities in the same time slot only on a different day (i.e., 12:05 on a Monday when the class meets at 12:05 on a Wednesday), inviting students to join you at an on campus activity, let students know about events (on or off campus) that you are attending, or scheduling multiple activities and just asking the students to attend at least one. All of those are ways to encourage activities with the students out of class.

 

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