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Journal article published at Learning Communities Research and Practice (LCRP)

I am pleased to announce that the article titled: “Our Stories: First-year Learning Communities Students Reflections on the Transition to College”, is published in Learning Communities Research and Practice (LCRP). This article is co-authored by the FYLC (First Year Learning Community) researchers: Karen Goodlad, Jennifer Sears, Mery Diaz, Sandra Cheng and Philip Kreniske. The full article can be viewed at: https://academicworks.cuny.edu/ny_pubs/538/


Analysis of diverse first-year and first-generation learning communities students’ reflective narratives shows this population of students at an urban commuter college of technology face significant challenges in the transition into college. Designed to assist in this transition, the “Our Stories” digital writing project incorporates reflective writing in the long established, yet recently revitalized, learning communities program. Through analysis of the “Our Stories” project, we examine how the structure of our learning communities program, together with writing on an open digital platform, builds community and has the potential to positively influence students as they identify, and begin to make sense, of the social, emotional, and bureaucratic challenges in their transition into college. The role of peer mentors, faculty and administrators in this project is discussed.

Paper accepted and presented at ASEE National Conference 2019

I am pleased to announce that our paper titled: “Using Natural Language Processing Tools on Individual Stories from First Year Students to Summarize Emotions, Sentiments and Concerns of Transition from High School to College” was accepted and presented at ASEE National Conference held in Tampa, FL between June 15th-19th, 2019. It was a project in collaboration with First Year Learning Community leaders: Karen Goodlad, Jennifer Sears, Phil Kreniske, Mery Diaz and Sandra Cheng.

Abstract: Research indicates striking disparities in college completion rates between students who are first generation and come from low-income households (FLI) as compared to continuing generation students. At New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) the majority of the student body are FLI. In the last decade, educators have made great efforts to re-shape and improve students’ First-year college experience with a focus on FLI students. One of the ten high-impact educational practices recognized nationally to improve first year student persistence and retention is First-Year Learning Communities (LC). A LC is a group of students who enroll in two or more courses, generally in different disciplines that are linked together by a common theme, in an academic semester. LCs involve cooperative learning, alternative assessment in the classroom, cross-disciplinary writing assignments, and critical thinking activities. LCs first came to our institution, City Tech, through a Title V Grant in 2000 and were adopted by the college in 2005. The academic performance of students participating in LCs at City Tech reflects national trends. When compared to the general population at the College, students in LC earn higher GPAs, have higher retention rates, and demonstrate greater satisfaction.

In order to complement the community-building efforts within learning community classrooms, we, a cohort of faculty leaders and administrators of City Tech’s First Year Learning Communities, a program offered through the college’s Office of First Year Programs, developed “Our Stories” digital writing project which extends the student’s network beyond the physical and temporal limits of class meeting times. Students in our LC were given the opportunity to share their personal stories of the transition from high school to college on a digital platform called OpenLab, a campus-wide, open digital WordPress platform for teaching, learning, and sharing. Over the course of a semester, LC students were prompted with the same prompt three times, at the beginning of the semester, roughly in the middle of the term, and in the last weeks. Peer Mentors, upper level students who, among other responsibilities, were trained to respond to “Our Stories” posts actively engaged in the project.

We analyzed student stories, using text analytics tools such as Natural Language processing (NLP) and Tone Analyzer to better understand the transition experience. The NLP analyzer helped summarize emotions and concepts, and identified some common concerns of students by identifying common keywords. The Tone Analyzer tool uses linguistic analysis to detect joy, fear, sadness, anger, analytical, confident and tentative tones found in text. Such summarizations of student stories provide suggestions to the college on how we can better orient students and prepare them for their first year. In this paper, we present top concerns of students who are transitioning from high school to college. We will also investigate through the stories if the overall experience of students gets better or worse through their first year.

First Year Learning Community (FYLC) Leadership team

I will serving as part of the First Year Learning Community (FYLC) leadership team along with Jennifer Sears and Karen Goodlad for AY 2018-2019. A curricular Learning Community is a group of students who co-enroll in two or more courses, generally in different disciplines that are linked together by a common theme, in an academic semester. Learning Communities is one of the ten high-impact educational practices recognized nationally to improve student persistence using data from assessment to increase retention. FYLCs provide an opportunity for students to begin their college experience with other students who share similar interests and career objectives. More details can be found at: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/groups/fylc-first-year-learning-community/