First Year Experience

Following the decline of the birthrate in Japanese society, universities are entering an age of mass appeal and mass attendance. Amidst such social change, problems are occurring at the university level such as an increase in students with low academic performance and low motivation levels and those with unclear study goals. An incompatibility with university life for first year students who have just entered universities is particularly evident. As a result, the question of how to provide a smooth transfer into university life for new students is becoming a big issue in Japanese universities.

In response to these problems, Tamagawa University has offered a first year education program targeting entering students in all departments since 2005. It consists of the required courses "First Year Seminar 101" and "First Year Seminar 102." The goal of this program is to support students in consciously leading a meaningful university life and eventually becoming workers possessing autonomy. Recently, there are many people who have not established a sense of identity even after becoming college students. For this reason as well, it is necessary to provide opportunities for students to think about their life path early on in their university education experience while simultaneously informing them that studying and lifestyles in university are vastly different from what they have experienced through high school.

Specifically, the following four points are given in "First Year Seminar 101 and 102" as goals for students to attain.

  1. To understand the importance of scholarship and develop the habit of studying regularly and systematically
  2. To acquire academic skills via learning at university
  3. To create a study plan leading to graduation and beyond
  4. To develop healthy lifestyle habits as an adult

Moreover, the program content is sorted into the following components in order to achieve these goals.

Academic Skills

  • Active adjustment to and assimilation in the university environment
  • Increase of motivation regarding studying
  • Cultivation of basic comprehension skills, reading and writing skills, and communication proficiency as a university student

Student Skills

  • Creation of a four year learning strategy and career plan with a firm eye towards the future

Social Skills

  • Learning about freedom and responsibility that come with adulthood

Using original textbooks

For teaching "First Year Seminar 101 and 102" we created "Daigaku Seikatsu Navi" (Navigating University Life), a textbook we produced which thoroughly covers the content of Academic Skills, Student Skills, and Social Skills. The authors organized the book into 16 topics, focusing on things that the author wants students to understand based on the authors experience giving deep thought to the issue in the process of instructing students. Some examples of topics are "Learning at University," "Learning Effectively," "Managing Time," "Taking Notes," "Taking Tests," "Making Decisions," "Life Design and Career Design," "Taking on Current Issues," and "Leading a Healthy Life."

"Reading, Writing, and Presentation Methods for University Students" is also available as a supplementary volume for "Daigaku Seikatsu Navi." The volume deals with book reading methods, paper writing methods, and presentation methods. Our unique e-Learning System utilizing "Blackboard" is used for instruction and materials on other topics.

Classes in which students think and speak

In the teaching of "First Year Seminar 101 and 102," we consider the way the class progresses as the most important element. This feeling comes from the concern that traditional teaching methods wherein the teacher lectures and the students listen quietly may not fulfill the goals we have set. In order to improve education results, effort and new innovation is necessary. In this class it is very true that there is more than one right answer. For that reason as well, the classroom should be an environment that motivates the students to imagine freely and speak freely. This is clearly different from the traditional one way method of lecturing teacher to student. The students must take the initiative to prepare before class and present their own opinions within discussions that occur. It is also important for students to listen to the opinions of their classmates and compare these to their own thoughts. In this manner students become aware of differences between themselves and others, their sense of self becomes clear, and an identity is established, enabling human growth. Thus, the class must have a two way format valuing above all opportunities for students to think and speak. For this reason as well, these classes are, as a rule, conducted with small groups of 30 students or less in a class.

Designation by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as a "Support Program for Distinctive University Education"

These sorts of endeavors in the first year education at Tamagawa University received recognition and were designated as a "Support Program for Distinctive University Education (GP)" in 2006 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Good Practices (GP) are unique and superior endeavors which the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology selects via national and private universities from amongst the endeavors of noteworthy universities, graduate programs, and junior colleges to further develop enterprises towards the improvement in the quality of student education which produce successful results, such as innovation and upgrading in education methods and education curriculum. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology supports these programs (from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology website).

Also, since 2004, Tamagawa University research results up to the present received recognition and Tamagawa University has since continued to participate as a supporting university in international conferences sponsored by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition (NRC), University of South Carolina, United States.

NRC: National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition (a representative US research institution for first year education)