Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Psychology


Educational Psychology

Advisor 1

Ralph E. Reynolds, Committee Co-Chair

Advisor 2

Peggy G. Perkins, Committee Co-Chair

First Committee Member

Leann G. Putney

Second Committee Member

Michael Nussbaum

Third Committee Member

Kendall Hartley

Number of Pages



John N. Gardner in 1972 advocated a new concept called the first-year seminar to increase academic performance and retention for freshmen students. The term "first-year seminar" defined a fairly diverse instructional construct, but the goal was clear and focused. It was to improve student retention rates. Research trends indicated a positive and almost always statistically significant relationship between first-year seminar participation and college achievement and higher persistence rates. Existing studies reflected a variety of significant methodological issues. Also; few cross-institutional research studies were reported and far fewer considered the content of the construct called a first-year seminar. The purpose of this investigation was to address these shortfalls by defining the multiple dimensions of first-year seminars and a prescription for future success. Case study methodology was used to investigate the process aspects of first-year seminar programs at three different institutional sites. The sites selected were research universities in the southeastern United States, the Rocky Mountains, and the southwestern United States. Results suggested that first-year seminar programs were very diverse across the three campuses. For example, two course designators were used to identify three different types of courses at the Rocky Mountain institution. Senior faculty members were the preferred instructors. The southeastern site had a dedicated management structure and course identifier, published the primary textbook, established well-defined instructional requirements, and hired the course's instructors from across the campus. These instructors were drawn predominately from the institution's professional staff. The southwestern institution's program rested upon the rise and fall of independent instructional efforts within several different Colleges. Instructors varied and ranged from graduate students to staff members to faculty. A multitude of reasons were identified for why a seminar should be established, but student retention was one of the least cited reasons. The evidence indicated the cases shared some inter-site and intra-site commonalities and differences in their expectations and courses. The cases emphasized, either directly or indirectly, one or more aspects associated with students' development of self-regulation. This emphasis on self-regulatory strategies suggests a different theoretical basis for first-year seminars. A first-year seminar model based on the social-cognitive perspective of self-regulation is proposed.


College students; College undergraduates; First-year seminars; Multiple case study; Self-regulation; Student retention; Undergraduates



File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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