Saturday, February 18, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Kathleen Curran, Wesley College, Dover, DE
Background: In the fall of 2014 through NSF-EPSCoR and NIH-IDeA (INBRE) support, Wesley College implemented a new academic core, its first new core in over 2 decades. It is a progressive model, with an emphasis on undergraduate research beginning with the very first semester. FY 100 was designed to introduce students to the research experience, as well as help hone and reinforce necessary communication skills. Class size is capped at 20 students, to facilitate class participation. The content varies with instructor interest. All incoming students are required to enroll in the freshmen seminar course FY 100, along with the English and Math courses they have placed in based on SAT scores and high school grades. As a result each FY 100 section may contain a diverse population of students, including both those enrolled in the Honors program, as well as those that have been placed in remedial classes. This diversity in ability has proven to be one of the main challenges faced by instructors. Wesley’s faculty hopes that this seminar, and the new core overall, will help with retention, and allow us to recruit stronger students. Methods: FY 100: Honey of a Hobby examines the ecological and economical role of honeybees. Students enrolled in a variety of majors including Education, Nursing, Law and Justice, Psychology, Accounting, Sports Management and Biology complete power point presentations, a term paper, peer review exercises, and a debate in order to improve both oral and written communication skills. For the research component the class poses a question and then designs and conducts their own survey. Data is collected, and each individual analyzes and interprets their results before writing up a report. Classes have examined differences in gender and age in honey consumption, characteristics of honey that would allow students to charge more for it, and community interest in having a bee hive on campus. Additional activities to keep student engagement high include an observation hive, honey extraction, making soap with honey and bees wax, and mixing honey mustard. Results: FY 100 has proven to be a challenging course due to the varied abilities and interests of the students; despite this we have already seen a small increase in first year retention. Retention in 2011 and 2012 averaged 46%, for 2014 and 2015 it had risen to 50%. Conclusions: FY 100 is a labor-intensive course for Wesley. All incoming freshmen are requires to enroll, which means the college has to staff a minimum of 20 sections. The challenge of engaging students with a wide array of skills has already led to faculty burnout. Despite this, Honey of a Hobby and FY 100 in general provides our weakest students with the opportunity to practice necessary communication skills as well has introduce them to the excitement of designing their own research project and carrying it out.