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Program Research and Scholarly Contributions

In addition to assessing the effectiveness of the UNIV 101 program to promote continuous improvement and sustainability, it is also a principal goal of the program to contribute to UNC’s scholarly mission as well as to the literature in areas related to student persistence, motivation and learning, instructional practice, and others.  As a result, a program of research has been designed to help fulfill this goal. 

Current Projects

A mixed-method research study is currently being conducted which seeks to examine the experiences of University 101/FYE 108 students over the past four years.  The study will attempt to answer research questions related to students’ experiences of incorporating concepts from the course into their overall university experience.  Furthermore, based on these student’s experiences, the research will gain perspective on which aspects of the course have been beneficial in enhancing student experiences at the university and which aspects could be altered.  In terms of the quantitative portion of this research, student achievement data will be examined to determine if there is a significant impact of the course being one, two, or three credits. 

Vaughan, A. L., Lucas, K., & Lalonde, T. (March, 2014). An evolving first year
seminar course: Student perspectives and achievement. Poster presented at the Annual Assessment Fair at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO.

Recently Completed Projects

Research has consistently shown that first-generation college students are less prepared academically for college, are at higher risk for dropping out and are less likely to obtain a degree. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effect of first-generation students’ participation in University 101 with their resulting achievement and persistence to the second semester as compared to nonparticipants. A quasi-experimental design was used that incorporated hierarchical propensity score matching techniques to form quasi-control groups. Data were collected from 266 first-generation students in the UNIV 101 course and the results showed that the seminar had a significant positive effect on achievement (an overall GPA difference of 0.71 points) and persistence (an overall 17% difference).

Vaughan, A. L., Parra, J., & Lalonde, T. (2014).  First-generation college student
achievement and the first year seminar: A quasi-experimental design. The Journal of The First-Year & Students in Transition, 26(2), in press.

The purpose of the study was to demonstrate a rigorous research methodology using a hierarchical propensity score matching method that can be utilized in contexts where randomization is not feasible and dependence between subjects is a concern.  University 101, a large-scale educational program that targets first semester Freshmen was used to illustrate the utility and value of the methodology. As in other programs in higher education, student self-selection into University 101 creates difficulty in assessing its true effects on student achievement; however, by using a rigorous methodology, administrators can have higher confidence when making programmatic and budgetary decisions. The results of the study were in favor of students participating in the University 101 course, as there were significant differences in GPA, student persistence, and number of students in Good Academic Standing.

Vaughan, A. L., Lalonde, T., & Jenkins-Guarnieri, M.A. (2014). Assessing student
achievement in large-scale educational programs using hierarchical propensity scores.  Research in Higher Education, 55(6), 564 - 580.doi: 10.1007/s11162-014-9329-8

In this study, we conducted a quantitative evaluation of the University 101 program to assess its potential role in undergraduate student persistence decisions and academic success. Participants were 2,188 first-year students, 342 of whom completed the University 101 program designed to develop cognitive variables associated with student outcomes such as motivation and commitment to the university, as well as practical skills such as time management, critical reading, and study strategies. Results from two sequential logistic regression models suggested that participation in this program was associated with increases in the odds of persisting and being in good academic standing, even after controlling for relevant background characteristics. These results suggest that other First Year Seminar interventions may be effective for improving student outcomes. Important implications for practice and further research are discussed.

Jenkins-Guarnieri, M.A., Horne, M., Wallis, A., Rings, J., & Vaughan, A. (2013).
Quantitative evaluation of a first year seminar program: Relationships to persistence and academic success. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, in press.

This study investigated the impact of self-determination among first year college students.  Using an ANOVA, this study examined the differences of self-determination scores of University 101 program participants with nonparticipants.  Furthermore, the self-determination scores of two at-risk subgroups, first-generation and undeclared students, were also compared. The study found that perceived levels of self-determination were higher among students who completed the University 101 course and these higher scores were significantly related to factors of student achievement such as GPA.  The study also found that successful completion of the University 101 course was significantly associated with an increase in the odds of persisting after controlling for demographic variables and prior academic performance, a finding that is consistent with previous research on FYS programs.   A previous pilot study was conducted to create a self-determination scale adapted for the college student population, which was utilized in the present study. 

Vaughan, A. L., Lucas, K., Pote, S. (February, 2014). The role of a first year seminar
course on student self-determination. Paper presented at the annual meeting on the First Year Experience, San Diego, CA.

In this two-part study, a pilot study was conducted to adapt a self-determination measure specifically for college student populations in educational contexts. Using a sample of 541 undergraduate students, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on the adapted measure resulted in a 13-item model of self-determination. Preliminary construct validity was supported by conducting regression analyses, showing a strong positive correlation between responses and satisfaction with life in college. The second study provided further psychometric evidence by conducting another CFA and provided more rigorous validity evidence by examining relationships between responses and student achievement (i.e., GPA, persistence). Having a reliable and valid measure will help support assessing student motivation and achievement outcomes within the program.

Jenkins-Guarnieri, M.A., Vaughan, A. L. (2014). Development of a self-determination
measure for college students: Validity evidence for the basic psychological needs at college.  Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development. Manuscript under review.
Vaughan, A. L., & Lucas, K. (April, 2014). An adapted self-determination measure
and college student success. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Philadelphia, PA.

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Office of ASA

First Year Seminars

University of Northern Colorado

Campus Box 79

501 20th Street

Greeley, CO 80639


  • James A. Michener Library
  • Room 149