Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Social and Emotional Learning in a Freshman Seminar

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Social and Emotional Learning in a Freshman Seminar

Article excerpt

Abstract

First year college students are challenged both socially and academically in their transition to college life. The literature suggests that social and emotional competence skills can help with this transition. This article describes the course content for a University freshman seminar that teaches skills in social and emotional competence in order to ease the transition into college and facilitate academic success. This paper discusses instruction about five core components of social and emotional competence: knowledge of emotions in self and others; self-management, relationship, and tolerance skills; and behavioral and perceptual flexibility. Specific content, assignments, and pedagogical techniques are discussed and implications for helping freshman are considered.

Keywords: social and emotional competence, freshman, college transition, academic success, skill building, retention, pedagogy

1. Introduction

This paper will discuss the infusion of social and emotional competence education into a first-year seminar at a metropolitan university. The reasons that universities offer these seminars vary, yet there is an overarching desire to help new students transition successfully to academic and campus life. In addition, colleges and universities are consistently looking for ways to increase the retention of students. The addition of social and emotional competence content can further facilitate the attainment of these goals as the skills involved are analogous to those required for the academic and personal success of college students.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Freshman Seminars

The implementation of first year seminars has been documented in the literature. Colleges and universities place their individual brands on first-year experience seminars. In a study done by Porter and Swing (2006) of 61 selected institutions, the seminars were coded into five formats. The formats ranged from courses that focused solely on the transition from high school to college and first semester success, to discipline specific courses administered by academic departments. These formats closely reflect the earlier work of Barefoot and Fidler (1992) that identified five types of seminars based upon information obtained from a survey conducted through the National Resource Center for the Freshman Year Experience. They found that freshman seminars ranged from those that provided more comprehensive orientation, specific academic skills or topics, basic study skills, and discipline specific preparation. Tobolowsky and Associates' (2008) 2006 National Survey of First-Year Seminars found that the classes tend to be small and have varying formats, reminiscent of those found in the works of Barefoot and Fidler (1992), as well as Porter and Swing (2006).

The seminar described in this article has an emphasis on the successful transition from high school to college, including a focus on skills to increase student connectedness, GPA, and retention. Among the many reasons that these seminars are offered is to increase the retention rates of freshman. Barefoot (2002) aptly emphasized that increased retention is a consistent goal in higher education. Research has found that indeed, first-year seminars do increase persistence from freshman to sophomore year (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005). Bean and Eaton's (2001) work on best practices for building strong retention programming supports first-year seminars as a way to help students integrate the social and academic aspects of their lives. They focus on the psychological theories of attitude-behavior theory, coping behavior theory, self-efficacy theory, and attribution theory as psychological processes that should guide retention programming. This first-year seminar's emphasis on teaching the skills and insight needed for increased emotional competence operationalizes the notion that a student's positive psychological processes contribute to academic and personal success in college. …

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