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Reviewed by:
  • Teaching First-Year College Students
  • Jennifer O. Duffy
Teaching First-Year College Students Bette LaSere Erickson, Calvin B. Peters, and Diane Weltner Strommer San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006, 284 pages, $38.00 (softcover).

During the last two decades, colleges have given heightened attention and resources to guaranteeing the success of first-year students. In response to this increased focus the authors of Teaching First-Year College Students offer an extensive combination of the most recent theoretical and practical advice to guide universities. Erickson, Peters, and Strommer wrote this second edition to build upon 1991's classic Teaching College Freshmen with a more comprehensive and updated approach that includes research and information about active learning techniques, learning styles, constructing evaluation tools and assessments, and alternative teaching methods. It also incorporates statistics on the latest demographic changes in first-year student populations.

The purpose of this edition is to assist colleges in reducing attrition rates of first-year students by focusing on the specific teaching and learning needs of this cohort. The book is divided into three major themes: understanding and supporting the capabilities and struggles of first-year students inside the classroom, developing a variety of instructive approaches, and cognitively engaging students. The rationale underlying the authors' main goals is to give first-year students a productive and enriching academic experience that will lead to enhanced achievement in the later undergraduate years. The primary audience is intended to be college and university faculty who teach first-year students, though administrators, deans, and department chairs who develop both academic and extra-curricular programs for freshmen can benefit as well. In addition, students can learn from the instructive nature of the book and apply the learning strategies to their own intellectual development.

The first section begins with a detailed description of first-year students' learning styles and cognitive development. It also includes research on the common challenges that first-year students endure when entering the college classroom and reveals first-year students' expectations for higher education. Part 2 continues with a focus on effective instruction, detailing such points as reasonable goals for first-year courses, teaching methods, and evaluation procedures. It also covers instructions on how to create syllabi that serve as teaching documents and also reflect course planning.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to procedures on how to design first class sessions, emphasizing that students learn the rules for class behavior more from what professors "do in the first class than what professors say" (p. 67). The authors stress that the first class is a powerful foundation to engaging students in classroom policies and practice. They provide concrete examples on types of activities for first class meetings such as introductory surveys to collect information from students that ask "Why did you sign up for this class? What do you intend to major? What can I do to help you do your best in this course?" (p. 79). The authors state that answers to these types of questions can help professors learn to connect course content to students' interests and assist them in mastering the material.

Part 3 looks at how institutions as communities can strengthen commitment to first-year [End Page 481] programs through multiple and different approaches. First, the authors affirm the importance of creating inclusion inside and outside of the classroom by incorporating diversity into programs and curricula. A multicultural campus-wide movement serves advocacy and awareness functions that intellectually, socially, and emotionally support all students during their transition to higher education regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, and social class. The authors recognize that there is "diversity fatigue" on campuses, but remind readers that respect for difference is equally important on a myriad of academic levels from one-on-one interactions between a faculty member and a student to general course discussions.

Chapter 14 tackles how to maximize understanding, thinking, and problem solving in large lecture-size, first-year classes by offering such suggestions as incorporating small-group discussions and using audience response technology, where students use wireless handheld devices to respond to questions and problems presented by the professor. Otherwise known as classroom communication systems, this technology may serve as a means to invite student participation and...


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pp. 481-482
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