With four student surveys and one faculty survey, it’s hard to have a favorite. It’s not quite as bad as “which child is your favorite,” but still, it’s a difficult choice. That said, I really like the “Your First College Year” survey.
The YFCY is given to first-year students at the end of that crucial first year of college. It’s unique in that it looks at the transition to college both from an academic perspective (e.g., “how easy has it been to understand what your professors expect of you academically?”) and a non-academic one, the important outside-the-classroom factors (e.g., “staff have encouraged me to get involved in campus activities”). HERI originally designed the YFCY with experts on the first-year of college John Gardner and Betsy Barefoot, currently at the John N. Gardner Institute.
As with all CIRP surveys, the questions are rooted in what research tells us are important factors in retention and student learning.
New items on the YFCY (and the Diverse Learning Environments Survey) have to do with “navigational action” and “navigational capital” and “academic validation” and “personal validation.” Successful students understand the various policies and procedures that need to be successfully navigated in order to progress towards their degree and in their learning.
Navigational theories posit that knowing that resources (such as an academic skills center) exist on campus, and then using such resources, help move students along the path to success. So, new on the YFCY are questions that ask about how students are learning about the resources on campus, such as using the course catalog (web or paper) or the institutional website, and then if they used various support services on campus (study skills advising, a writing center, etc . . .).
We can then link such navigational action and capital to the movement along some of our outcomes, such as “habits of mind’ or “pluralistic orientation.”
Validation theories, in the classroom and general interpersonal validation, contribute to the climate for learning and are related to academic gains and persistence. “I feel like my contributions were valued in class” or “faculty encouraged me to ask questions and participate in class discussions” are examples of such items.
One more big change to the YFCY, but this is only available for the web version, is it’s designed to capture information from those few students who have already left your institution before you administered the survey.
The first question, then, that a student sees is a branching questions (“For Spring 2010, were you still a student at -your institution name here-?”). If he or she answers “Yes” they go onto the YFCY as normal. If not, and the student has departed, the student is directed to a short series of questions that are designed to find out what they are doing now, why they left, and what they plan to be doing in the fall. The full set of items for this section can be found here. We’re hoping it will provide you with good information about the students who have left since fall term.
There are other reasons why I like the YFCY so much, but these are among the top ones. They also illustrate HERI’s commitment to providing cutting edge research-based questions that provides you with practical and actionable information.
And let’s keep this to ourselves, no reason to upset the other surveys.