Thursday, October 26, 2017

Transfer Students

Contributed by: Gabe LaHue

            In keeping with our theme of “Equitable Access to Education: Supporting Students from Diverse Backgrounds”, this week we chose to focus on transfer students, and students that transferred from community colleges in particular. UC Davis admitted 39,306 students in 2016, of which 9,587 were transfer students from California community colleges1. Transfer students from California community colleges therefore represented 92.8 percent of all transfer students and 24.4 percent of all new students. Given this sizeable presence (and the importance of teaching to benefit all types of students), it is essential that we understand the unique challenges that transfer students face and the strengths that set them apart.

In our discussion, we first focused on brainstorming why students might choose to attend community college in the first place. Our list included financial reasons, staying close to family, uncertainty about their career path, improving academic performance, the flexibility of class times (especially for students with careers), and the flexibility of enrollment. We also came up with some potential strengths of transfer students (previous college experience, greater time for maturation, a possibly greater sense of purpose and personal responsibility, and coursework at an institution that focuses on teaching) and some potential challenges (more working hours, a lack of familiarity with the campus and community, less support for academically-challenged students than they might be used to, credit-transfer problems, etc.).

After our initial brainstorms focusing on who transfer students are, we shifted to looking at how we can best serve transfer students by analyzing two research articles about community college transfer student persistence and degree attainment at 4-year institutions2,3. Although the studies differed in their rigor and some notable results (like the importance of gender, ethnicity, working hours, and participation in social clubs), there were several factors found to be important in both studies. The socioeconomic status of the students, their parents’ highest degree level, and the student’s degree goal were all deemed to be important. One of the studies found that whether a student’s high school curriculum was vocational or academic in nature affected degree attainment. The other study found that interaction with academic advisors was an important positive factor. Interestingly (and in line with current thinking at universities), remediation in math was found to be negatively correlated with persistence or degree attainment. At the end of the day, many of these factors are beyond our control as teaching assistants or instructors. However, I was struck by the importance of high ambition (as evidenced by the degree goal and to a lesser degree by the negative correlation with remediation). In addition to sound teaching techniques that benefit all students, we can encourage our students to set ambitious goals and help connect students to resources and organizations around the campus.

1.     Easley, J.A., 2016. “UC Davis admits more than 39,300.” UC Davis. Internet Resource. Available from:

2.     Wang, X. 2009. Baccalaureate attainment and college persistence of community college transfer students at four-year institutions. Research in Higher Education. 50:570-588.

3.     Lee, H., and Schneider, T. 2016. Does post-transfer involvement matter for persistence of community college transfer students? Community College Journal of Research and Practice. DOI: 10.1080/10668926.2016.1251351

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Supporting First-Generation College Students

Contributed By: Michelle Rossi

In the first of our meetings aimed at providing equitable access to education for all of our students, we explored promoting success for first-generation colleges students. Did you know that 42% of UC Davis undergraduate students identify as First-Gen (neither parent has earned a 4 year bachelor’s degree)? We all have First-Gen students in our classes, and research shows that instructional strategies designed to support these students really benefit ALL students.

Since this status is less visible than many ascribed statuses, we first discussed ways to recognize our first-generation students’ current, and perhaps unique, life experiences. Notably, there is much variation within this group as first-gen students are inclusive of all genders, all ethnicities, and all orientations. Often, these students have more challenges in terms of finances, meaning they may work many hours while enrolled or they may not understand how to navigate the financial aid system. They are, thus, often less connected to the university, while still needing to be culturally dexterous enough to switch between two worlds – one at the university and one at home.

In order to best support these students, we examined the following effective teaching strategies:
1. Explain your expectations
2. Apply principles of adult learning to your teaching
3. Make your assignments and exams more transparent and culturally inclusive
4. Promote social integration
5. Encourage students to seek help and feedback

These strategies are unpacked in a .pdf on the following website:

- Scholarly Articles
- Suggestions for Teaching First-Gen Students
- UC and National News
- Resources for First-Gen Students

In addition, the CEE website offers more in-depth resources:

Just In Time Teaching
- Supporting First Generation University Students (4 part series)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Welcome to the Fall 2017 Graduate Teaching Community!

This quarter we will focus on the theme of "Equitable Access to Education: Supporting Students from Diverse Backgrounds". Meetings will be in Surge III, Room 1352 from 11 am - 12 pm on Thursdays. Specific topics for each meeting date are listed below.

  • October 12th: Introduction and Logistics
  • October 19th: First-Generation Students
  • October 26th: Transfer Students
  • November 2nd: CEE Teaching Resources 
  • November 9th: Multilingual and International Students
  • November 16th: Active Learning Strategies for All Populations
  • November 23rd: Thanksgiving (No meeting)
  • November 30th: Strategies for Re-engaging Students
  • December 7th: Luncheon