If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve almost certainly seen some of my posts about the data we’ve collected to assess and guide our advising practices at Augustana College (here, here, and here). However, those posts only get at part of the story. Since all of those posts drew from senior survey data, we can be almost sure that those findings primarily reflect our students’ advising experiences in their major(s). But we also know that first-year advising matters a lot. Many would argue it matters at least as much as major advising. So I’d like to dive into some of the advising data from our first-year students and see if there’s anything that we can learn from it.
In this post I’d like to focus on two items that we know are important for a successful first-year experience. First-year students answered these questions late in their fall term.
- My first year adviser connected me with other campus offices, resources, or opportunities (offices like Student Activities, the Community Engagement Center, the Counseling Center) to help me succeed during my first year.
- My first-year adviser made me feel like I could succeed at Augustana.
The table below presents the average response scores to these items over the last four years. The response options were strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, and strongly agree. These responses were converted to a 1-5 scale where 1 equals strongly disagree.
|My first-year Adviser connected me with other campus offices, resources, or opportunities to help me succeed during my first year.
|My first-year adviser made me feel like I could succeed at Augustana.
You can see that we’ve improved on both measures since 2013-14. I know that our first-year advising program has emphasized the importance of connecting students with the campus offices that can best help them, and it’s heartening to see that this effort may be producing results. With that said, it looks like we might still need to improve since our average score hasn’t quite surpassed “agree” yet. By contrast, in each of the last four years, on average our student’s “agree” that we have made them feel like they could succeed at Augustana.
Interestingly, while the improvement in referring students to other campus resources seems fairly consistent, the improvement in making students feel like they could succeed seems to have plateaued over the last couple of years. But digging a little deeper, there is a wrinkle in our 2016-17 data that both seems to explain this plateau and may further emphasize the value in moving to the first-year advising structure that the faculty has now approved to implement next year.
This year (i.e., during the fall of 2016), about a third of our first-year student advising groups were enrolled in an FYI-100 course instead of merely meeting informally with their adviser throughout the term. For the students who were enrolled in this class, the average response score to the statement “My first-year adviser made them feel like they could succeed at Augustana” was 4.34. For the students who were not enrolled in this class (about 2/3rds of the whole group), the average response score was 4.17.
Many long time advisers said that the FYI 100 format helped them develop stronger relationships with their advisee. These advisers indicated that the stronger relationships allowed them to engage in more substantive conversations that, in turn, helped the students think more deeply about the nature of their college experience and the ways in which they could make the most of it.
As wonderful as it is to hear that we seem to be making improvements in our advising practices, It is even more exciting to see data confirming these bold strides toward even better first-year advising.
Make it a good day,