Thinking about FYS

As a large (97 sections!) University-wide course, FYS touches nearly every aspect of campus life, yet as a new organization, many are struggling to understand exactly what it is and why it is important.  Here are some thoughts for you that should help you talk to your students and your peers around the University.

First, the context for FYS is the knowledge society, also known as the knowledge economy where their ability to generate and share insights, think critically, communicate effectively, and reason through complex problems will matter most toward success (Powell & Snellman, 2004; Hart Associates, 2013).

Carl Bereiter (1997) echoed this sentiment adding that we must think differently about learning.  He said that imagination and creativity, the ability to work in groups, effective communication and problem-solving skills, technological literacy and information fluency are key, but most important is a continual readiness to learn.

The function of FYS is not to teach any particular subject, but help QU’s students make the transition to this intellectually curious, autonomous and intrinsically motivated, life-long scholar.

Students, particularly first year students, don’t always grasp the need for these ideas.  Many come to use conditioned to see the text or the teacher as sources of knowledge and expect to “be taught” more.

While FYS isn’t about content delivery, we should not deemphasize the importance of content knowledge.  What we’re asking students to do is discover the content differently –  we want to introduce students to inquiry, a particular mode of thinking that is the heart of their education and preparation for all aspects of life after college.

Through the FYS and inquiry we expect that they will learn to investigate complex, relevant problems that defy easy and definitive answers.

Thusly, you are not “teaching a course” as much as you are putting them on the path to:

  • Understand how different kinds of knowledge are generated and interpreted,
  • Critically evaluate and integrate knowledge and perspectives for the purpose of creating ideas, making informed judgements and making decisions,
  • Effectively communicate and gain support for their ideas, decisions and judgments.

In every decision you make regarding assignments, assessment, or handling problem students, please keep these statements of intent in mind.

Nested into these are the specific FYS learning objectives, namely:


Critical thinking skills for identifying and working with complex problems (defined as problems without definitive answers, that transcend disciplinary interests/scope, and that require competing perspectives to approach adequate comprehension).

The ability to seek, find, and benefit from diversity of thought, experience, and opinion.

Reading, writing, and oral communication skills to create knowledge cooperatively, and to share knowledge with others.

To Develop:

An understanding of the goals of a Quinnipiac undergraduate education.

Familiarity with the process of inquiry including how inquiry is practiced in the arts & humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences.

An initial, inquiry-based question for exploration over the course of your undergraduate education.


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