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FIGs Main Image

Forming FIGs (for faculty)

Educational Principles of FIGs

The educational principles of First-year Interest Groups (FIGs) are fairly simple. FIGs should involve:

  • Linked courses in the lower division of General Education (or the introductory courses of related programs).
  • Collaborative teaching by the instructors of these linked courses (who organize the emphases of their courses around common themes).
  • Integrative coursework to reinforce an interdisciplinary understanding of the common themes.
  • Cooperative study by the students of linked courses through social interactions outside of the classroom.
  • Active learning by all students (who can apply their learning and undertake self-directive inquiries outside of the classroom).

Identifying FIGs

It is often difficult to know which courses are appropriate to link in FIGs because the faculty of a department are often unaware of what "happens" in courses of other departments and how these other departments "explain" the material they teach to students. It is helpful to do the following when identifying courses to link in FIGs:

  • Review courses in related departments/programs or related categories of General Education.
  • Discuss among faculty who wants to teach collaboratively in linked courses.
  • Exchange syllabi.

Once these efforts are underway, faculty may encounter other issues to resolve before they decide to link courses in FIGs or other learning communities:

Issue Questions to Consider
Collaborative teaching Are similar "worldviews" necessary or are differing perspectives an effective alternative?
Faculty involvement in collaborative teaching Is it necessary for both faculty to contribute or can one faculty effectively ensure the integration of materials?Should faculty adjust their pedagogies to reinforce common strategies for integrating the material they teach?
Cross-disciplinary overlap between linked courses How much attention to the competencies of critical thinking and the overlapping content of categories is enough to ensure integrative coursework?
Class size and diversity in linked courses What are the upper limits of class size?Can learning communities include students who only take one of the courses?Can sufficient interaction and cooperative study by students happen in large classes or in learning communities where some students are not fully participating (in both courses)?
Technology for collaborative teaching and cooperative study Is it necessary (or merely helpful) to use "Blackboard" as an electronic source of common materials for integrative coursework and "virtual interactions" outside of the classrooms? 
Cooperative study through group projects Should projects be graded? Should the "group" or individual be graded?What can be done to ensure everyone contributes? 
Encouraging active learning What activities can be done outside of the classroom, when should these activities be included in a semester, and how can these activities be related to the substantive emphases of each course in a learning community? 
Intellectual development and academic preparedness among first-year students How do faculty address problems in thinking (reasoning/logic), listening, speaking, writing, analysis, extrapolation, reflection?

Campus Resources

These concerns are only some of the critical issues faculty should address as they develop different types of learning communities across the knowledge areas of General Education or within the substantive emphases of various majors. The Teaching and Learning Center has resources for the faculty to consult as they address these issues. Please contact Richard Kelder at ext. 2650, kelderr@newpaltz.edu, or visit 113 College Hall.

Please contact Patrick Saxe, Assistant Dean of Academic Advising, at saxep@newpaltz.edu or at ext. 2929, if you want to discuss these issues of forming FIGs or need assistance in the formation of a FIG.