By Abigail Yasmeen Roberts | Echo
This fall, Taylor's 536 new freshmen will be the first Taylor students in history to experience the newly combined Foundations (IAS110) and First Year Experience (IAS101) class.
"This conversation has been going on for 10 years," Scott Gaier, director of the academic enrichment center, said. "It has always been something considered."
Every fall, hundreds of freshmen swarm to Taylor's campus and are assigned cohorts with which they engage, discuss and become familiar with one another and with Taylor.
O-Groups have existed as a concept since 1974 when retired Taylor Dean of Students Walt Campbell ('64) re-envisioned the new student orientation program. Since 1974 the look of O-Groups has shifted and morphed, but the key structure and goals have remained the same. In recent history, Taylor transitioned into dividing the freshman class into color groups in fall of 2014, and in the fall of 2015, IAS110 was handed from Professor of Psychology Mark Cosgrove to Associate Professor of Computer Science & Engineering Jeff Cramer.
"We had been close to merging the two classes when Cosgrove stepped down," Assistant Professor and Director of First Year Experience Shawnda Freer said. "Then we thought about redesigning the existing courses to see if they could stand alone."
However, passionate about finding an efficient way for freshmen to have one set experience, the department was still curious as to what the classes would look like merged.
Junior Hannah Funk, a first year experience cabinet remembers as a freshman wondering why foundations and first year experience couldn't just be combined.
Last fall, one color group, known as the purple group, was selected as an experimental group. The integrated class structure was tested on them. Three times throughout the semester they and a control group were administered a survey in order to assess their progress.
Gaier, who conducted the surveys, found a statistically significant increase in the experimental group's post-test. This further encouraged the faculty to move forward in this decision.
The biggest change for Taylor students has been the name and role change from O-Group leader to Preceptor.
"It makes it seem more influential and official," O-Group leader sophomore Dana Thompson said. "I'm a sophomore, and I'm taking over the role of a grown teacher. It's definitely something you really have to think through."
Preceptors are now asked to read and create lesson plans for the four required books, facilitate and lead those class discussions as well as continue meeting and building relationships with their new group of freshmen.
Committing to the whole semester also allows preceptors to pour more into their groups and raises the standard of intentionality.
"I believe the prestige of the Preceptor (O-Group leader) role will go up," Dan Reade, graduate assistant for First Year Experience, said. "You're not just leading games, you are teaching and facilitating discussion. You're more of an academic, committed now for a whole semester and getting paid."
Gaier said he was most excited for the students' potential. He could see them developing into better friends, people and parents in the future.