• History and Communication Gateways: Meaningful Learning and First Year Impact

      Tobin, Kathleen A.; Roach, Thomas J; Tobin, Kathleen A.; Roach, Thomas J
      Topic/Problem The John Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education identified history as a subject with high levels of attrition among first generation college students in their first year of college. That is not the case with the subject of communication. This project explores similarities and differences in the ways students with learn about history and communication during their first year and identifies possible teaching practices common to communication that may be useful in the history classroom. In particular we will look at communication exercises requiring skills development and social integration. Context HIST 10500 Survey of Global History and COM 11400 Fundamentals of Speech Communication are prescribed first semester courses that fulfill general education and humanities and social sciences requirements for all undergraduates at Purdue University Northwest. While the differences in course design, intention, and expectations are significant, students must find value in each of them to progress toward program completion. In this first stage of research, we look at student demographic data in each of these courses and rates of completion and retention in the following year. Approach Purdue University Northwest is one of eleven institutions nationwide (2-year and 4-year institutions) participating in the American Historical Association’s History Gateways project, funded by a $1.65 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Institute in conjunction with the Gardner Institute. It is designed to evaluate ways in which students are introduced to the subject of history during their first year, with the possibility of “substantial revision of introductory college-level history courses to better serve students from all backgrounds and align more effectively with the future needs of a complex society (AHA).” In these initial steps, we are working with our Office of Institutional Research to gather data with the goal of determining current completion and retention rates. We begin by comparing retention rates with the Department of Communication and Creative Arts. Starting with the Bruskin Associates survey of 1973, public speaking routinely is cited along with death, dentists, and snakes as one of Americans’ greatest fears, making it somewhat commensurate with the intimidating nature of history. We will also consider how course design, stated learning objectives, and teaching techniques may help students find value in what they learn. Moreover we will consider the impact of speech assignments focused on skills development and group project assignments that stimulate interaction among students outside the classroom. We will also survey students before and after their first assignments and at the end of the semester to see if their perspectives on value have changed. This is the first stage of a 3-year project. Reflection/Discussion Because we are in the very early stages of the project, we are eager to share the process with other faculty engaged in first year teaching. Hearing of other experiences may help highlight some of the issues faced in the areas of engagement and retention. References: American Historical Association (AHA) History Gateways: https://www.historians.org/historygateways Gardner Institute Gateways to Completion: https://www.jngi.org/gateways-to-completion/