Making a first impression: Exploring what instructors do and say on the first day of introductory STEM courses
Publication Name: CBE Life Sciences Education
Publication URL: https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.20-05-0098
Student impressions formed during the first day of class can impact course satisfaction and performance. Despite its potential importance, little is known about how instructors format the first day of class. Here, we report on observations of the first day of class in 23 introductory science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses. We first described how introductory STEM instructors structure their class time by characterizing topics covered on the first day through inductive coding of class videos. We found that all instructors discussed policies and basic information. However, a cluster analysis revealed two groups of instructors who differed primarily in their level of STEM content coverage. We then coded the videos with the noncontent Instructor Talk framework, which organizes the statements instructors make unrelated to disciplinary content into several categories and subcategories. Instructors generally focused on building the instructor–student relationship and establishing classroom culture. Qualitative analysis indicated that instructors varied in the specificity of their noncontent statements and may have sent mixed messages by making negatively phrased statements with seemingly positive intentions. These results uncovered variation in instructor actions on the first day of class and can help instructors more effectively plan this day by providing messages that set students up for success.
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under grants DUE-1712074, DUE-1712060, and DUE-1347814; the NebraskaSCIENCE Program of Excellence at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln; and the Provost’s Gateway Initiative and the Center for Teaching Innovation at Cornell University. This research was considered exempt from institutional review: University of Maine protocol 2017-05-12, University of Nebraska–Lincoln protocol 20170617341, and Cornell University protocol 1806008047.
Lane, A. K., Meaders, C. L., Shuman, J. K., Stetzer, M. R., Vinson, E. L., Couch, B. A., Smith, M. K., & Stains, M. (2021). Making a first impression: Exploring what instructors do and say on the first day of introductory STEM courses. CBE Life Sciences Education, 20(1), ar7. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.20-05-0098