First-Generation College Students

The Institute for Student Identity and Research is focused on finding and sharing promising classroom practices for increased success by first-generation students. We began our work by reviewing recent literature on first-generation students and their challenges in higher education. A preliminary finding that helped shape our mission was reflected in the title of a report from The Institute for Higher Education Policy in 2012: “Supporting First-Generation College Students through Classroom-Based Practices.*” Faculty, and what they do inside the classroom and laboratory with their students, are extremely important for New Majority student success. However, on a national scale, faculty have access to minimal resources regarding effective classroom practices to address the unique needs of first-generation students.

With this in mind, we began conducting interview-based research along with intensified review of the literature on college teaching and first-generation students. The research identified four key elements of college student success, which are especially crucial for first-generation students:

  1. Engaged Learning
  2. Confidence in their ability to succeed
  3. Bonding with their college peers, faculty and institution
  4. Vision of where their education can take them

Our research assistants and advisory group members contributing to this work are pooling their research findings to identify successful strategies used by individual faculty to support and invigorate each of the key four elements for student success. Using this data, we wrote a book at the request of Harvard Education Press: Breakthrough Strategies: Classroom-Based Practices to Support New Majority College Students (2016).

* Institute for Higher Education Policy. (2012). Supporting First-Generation College Students Through Classroom-Based Practices (1st ed.). Washington, DC.