Emic perspectives: the Freshman Interest Group program at the University of Texas at Austin



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This study explored the emic perspective of participating in the Freshman Interest Group (FIG) Program at The University of Texas at Austin. This study employed a qualitative methodology to capture the emic perspective of participating in a FIG. Initially, student responses to a previously administered course-instructor survey were analyzed using content analysis. Student responses to the question “The most valuable part of being in a FIG was” were coded for the first five years in which the program operated. The patterns, themes and categories that emerged from the content analysis were used to describe the student experience. To further triangulate the data, focus groups of currently enrolled former FIG participants were formed and students were asked to reflect on the theme that emerged from the content analysis. The themes were also reviewed by three comparison institutions with similarly structured FIG programs. The key findings that emerged from the data were incorporated into a model to represent the student experience. Participating in a FIG was found to be an individual experience for each participant. Students distinguished between the structure elements of the program and the individuals with whom they interacted while in the program. The model that emerged describes the emic perspective of participants of the FIG program. By studying the student perspective of participating in a successful learning community, this research sought to inform researchers and administrators about the value of learning communities. A deeper understanding of what particular elements were important to the student experience can also inform practice on creating other learning communities and student retention efforts.