Teaching Philosophy of First Year Studies

The First Year Studies Program aims to offer first year students innovative curriculum and programs that introduce humanistic content to aspiring engineers, scientists, and technical professionals. First Year Studies courses have successfully delivered rich and challenging material that has helped our students engage more deeply with the social world in which they live, and in which they will carry out their professional lives. At the heart of the program is a transdisciplinary approach that allows students to examine specific ideas and themes from multiple disciplinary perspectives.

The program has no fixed pedagogy, or teaching philosophy. Its mission and methods of instruction are constantly being monitored and revised to meet the changing demands being placed on our educational system, and to serve student interests. This review process is conducted jointly by the program's director, director of pedagogy, and the members of the FYS Faculty Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from all of the academic departments within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Specific survey instruments are employed on a regular basis to monitor the success and failure of the programs' methods.

Currently, the emphasis of the First Year Studies Program is on the following pedagogic strategies. Clearly, not all of these objectives can be incorporated fully, or to the same degree, in each course, as teaching methods must vary by course content. Individual instructors in the program are given considerable latitude in finding specific expressions of these objectives. Nevertheless, the focus on these pedagogic goals, as reiterated and explored through the FYS Summer Seminar and the Fall Brownbag Pedagogy Sessions, ensure the unique quality of First Year Studies courses and their commitment to the quality of undergraduate education at Rensselaer.


Critical Thinking

All First Year Studies courses aim to foster the general ability of a student to examine fundamental issues in a clear, comprehensive and critical fashion. Moreover, students are encouraged to develop the ability to distinguish and evaluate arguments and evidence, relate the knowledge gained through such endeavors to their prior knowledge, and relate theoretical ideas to everyday experience. Students are also often given the opportunity to develop strong research and reading skills.

Writing and Communications

First Year Studies courses often involve extensive practice in writing, oral presentation, and creative expression, including communications employing various forms of cutting-edge technology.

Personal Instructional Attention

In general, First Year Studies courses involve sections with a maximum of 25 students, ensuring ample opportunity for one-on-one student-instructor interaction.

Teamwork and Group Work

First Year Studies courses often involve particiipation in group projects of both a theoretical and practical nature that offer opportunities for developing leadership skills and entrepreneurial applications at both Rensselaer and beyond.

Community Building and Awareness

First Year Studies courses aim to foster a love of learning and sense of community among first year students through activities such as the First Year Studies Lecture Series and class wide community service projects.

Diversity / Diversity of Perspective

Our courses also aim to foster an appreciation for a diversity of outlooks at a deep and fundamental level. They also encourage an examination of the values that those outlooks imply.

Advanced Instructional Technology

First Year Studies courses involve both the use and study of technology as it relates to the humanities and the social sciences, and the world at large.

We take there issues of undergraduate pedagogy seriously, and are working to inculcate a community of instructors dedicates to strong and effective teaching at the undergraduate level. This is done primarily through the following venues, for which further details can be found by clicking on the labels.


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