The first year curriculum incorporates pedagogies, teaching approaches and materials that engage students in their learning and facilitates interactions with peers and staff.

Good first year curriculum design enacts an engaging and involving pedagogy. AUSSE (ACER, 2008) now provides us with very clear guidance around the “activities and conditions likely to generate high quality learning” (ACER, 2008, vi) and evidences that “all aspects of engagement have a strong positive relationship with a range of general, specific, social, personal, ethical and interpersonal capabilities” (ACER, 2008, ix). Pascarella & Terenzini (2005, 646) record that –

With striking consistency, studies show that innovative, active, collaborative, and constructivist instructional approaches shape learning more powerfully, in some forms by substantial margins, than do conventional lecture-discussion and text-based approaches.

For example:

  • a team-based learning approach might be enacted in a first year subject (Michaelsen, Knight & Fink (2002); www.teambasedlearning.org);
  • teachers could model a “professional conversation” in a large first year group (Field & Kift, 2006);
  • at least one first year subject might include a teamwork project;
  • first year engagement might be structured through the use of workbooks and cumulative assessment pieces (latter, e.g., a reflective reading log, leading to a preliminary essay plan, to a draft assignment, to the final assignment (Taylor, 2008));
  • mentors and Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) schemes might be built into curriculum and co-curriculum design;
  • academic mentors could be appointed for commencing students;
  • first year students could be provided with a dedicated physical and/or virtual space (Nelson, 2008 ALTC Kift Fellowship Case Study).

See: S. Kift. (2008). The next, great first year challenge: Sustaining, coordinating and embedding coherent institution–wide approaches to enact the FYE as “everybody’s business”. In 11th International Pacific Rim First Year in Higher Education Conference, An Apple for the Learner: Celebrating the First Year Experience, 2008, Hobart, 17. Retrieved August 14, 2008 from http://www.fyhe.com.au/past_papers/papers08/FYHE2008/content/pdfs/Keynote%20-%20Kift.pdf (pdf 280KB)