Effects of a Strengths-based First-year Seminar on Student Thriving
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Colleges and universities commonly implement first-year seminars to support new students during the challenging and formative first semester. These programs are widely regarded as highly effective in promoting student persistence through the first year and beyond. However, attention on the indirect outcome of persistence as the primary measure of effectiveness has resulted in limited exploration of more holistic impacts of first-year seminars during students’ first semester. This study utilized a conceptualization of student success called thriving to examine the effects of a first-year seminar on student well-being. The curriculum for the seminar focused on strengths awareness and development grounded in the StrengthsFinder® classification of human talents, as strengths-based practices have been shown to contribute to various measures of individual well-being. A quasi-experimental design was used with student participants enrolled in either a treatment section (n=87) that followed the strengths-based curriculum or a control section (n=45) that followed the seminar’s traditional curriculum. Dependent variables were scales measured by the Thriving Quotient™ and included Engaged Learning, Academic Determination, Positive Perspective, Social Connectedness, Diverse Citizenship, and Psychological Sense of Community. Participants in both treatment conditions were enrolled in sections of a non-credit bearing first-year seminar at a large, selective private institution in the southwestern United States. The seminar had six meetings approximately biweekly through the first ten weeks of the fall 2014 semester. Participants completed The Thriving Quotient™ pretest survey on the first class meeting and the posttest instrument on the seminar’s final day. Paired-samples t tests revealed that neither the treatment nor the control group demonstrated a statistically significant change in overall thriving scores from the time of the pretest to the posttest. A one-way MANCOVA was conducted to determine whether significant differences existed between treatment and control groups in posttest scores, after controlling for participants’ scores on the pretest. Results of the analysis showed that such a difference did not exist between the two groups. Further examination of the effects on specific scales of the thriving construct was therefore not conducted.
Shelburne, Nathan Andrew (2016). Effects of a Strengths-based First-year Seminar on Student Thriving. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from