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Understanding Our Students

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.681.1 - 5.681.7



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Paper Authors

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Diane Saphire

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J. Paul Giolma

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1330

Understanding Our Students J. Paul Giolma and Diane Saphire Trinity University


If we understand students’ critical need to find a niche socially and to experience early academic success and if we are aware of the difficulty the college environment can pose for freshmen, especially women, minority, and adult students, we are better able to become sensitive to student needs and concerned for the conditions necessary for their academic success. Faculty who understand what freshmen are going through are, in short, in the best position to put those events in a larger context and to help students focus on the academic aspects of their freshman experience. [1, p 45]

In their book, Teaching College Freshmen, Bette Erickson and Diane Strommer speak of changes in the culture of high school students from those of decades past [1]. Our national culture expects college study of a greater proportion of students now, and some national leaders speak of a college education as essential for the economic survival of tomorrow’s workforce. Does the “new” student culture support or inhibit success in college? Can we, the faculty, recognize this culture and adjust our teaching and our courses to maximize student achievement?

For faculty to teach effectively, we need not only to know what we’re teaching, but also to understand those who need to learn from us. By gaining some insight into the strengths, weaknesses and preferences of our students, we can best choose methods for presenting information, developing understanding and abilities, and for changing the student culture where necessary to optimize learning. In this paper, we will examine a snapshot of students entering Trinity University in the Fall of 1998—a snapshot provided by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) survey completed by the entering class during orientation of their first year at Trinity. This snapshot provides some surprising views of the culture of today’s entering students, and of those intending to pursue an engineering degree at Trinity.

The CIRP Survey

The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) was established in 1966 at the American Council on Education to study the American higher education system. One of the projects of the CIRP is an annual nationwide freshman survey, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. The survey gathers information from new college students about their academic and family backgrounds, interests, college and career goals, and attitudes. Institutions participating in the freshman survey receive summary data on

Saphire, D., & Giolma, J. P. (2000, June), Understanding Our Students Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8792

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