Reactions of first-year students to the introduction of a new course in the core curriculum



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Southwest University, a pseudonym for a Tier One 4-year public institution in the Southwest United States, introduced major curricular reforms in 2005. The most prominent of these reforms was a course required of all first-year students with the goal of transforming them from high-school students to college students. Research for this dissertation asked a group of first-year students about their experience in all of their courses but focused on the perceptions of this new first-year course. Currently, universities are devoting a great deal of resources and energy to curricular reform, but students are not often asked how they experience those curricular changes.
First-year students discussed the role this course played in their first-year college experience. In order to assess student perceptions and reactions to the course, first-year students were interviewed twice. Additional qualitative data in the form of surveys and journals were also analyzed with an inductive analytic approach to provide supportive evidence for the themes that emerged in the interviews. The findings suggest that student perceptions of the course were positive and that the course had helped them achieve their first-year goals. However, the findings also suggest that additional research or a cost-benefit analysis of the program needs to be conducted to determine if the high cost of the program is worth the outcomes it is achieving.