22 SES 14 A, Paper Session
The first-year experience in higher education has attracted the attention of institutions, academics, and administrators over a half-century. It is a unique experience for students since they have to grapple with the challenging consequences of the dramatic changes in their lives (Feldman, 2005 & 2018). Previous research indicates that when students spend the majority of their time on their studies and try to interact with campus groups, they are more likely to persist (Feldman, 2005; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Studies remark that the topic itself is quite diverse and extensive (Chang, 2018; Harvey & Drew, 2006; Nagda, Gurin, & Johnson, 2005; Pope, Miklistsch, Weigand, 2005). However, some themes such as retention, success, assessment, persistence, institutional and personal factors, adjustment and support, learning, and teaching are recurring in many of the studies. Most of these studies are also carried out in a single institution with relatively small samples (Aypay, Cekic, & Boyacı, 2012; Harvey & Drew, 2006).
Few studies were theoretically grounded and carried out a systematic exploration of first-year student experience (Harvey & Drew, 2006). Comprehensive reviews were not carried out on first-year students since the preparation of a report by Harvey and Drew (2006). Feldman, who published two books on this topic (2005, 2018) did an excellent job analyzing particular issues in regard to college students’ first-year experience. However, in our age of rapid change, factors such as the demographics and generational needs of students or the nature and context of institutions are altered briskly. Hence, the experiences of first-year college students need to be examined with closer scrutiny at different intervals so as to develop ways to help students to cope with the challenges surrounding them. In this regard, a systematic analysis of the literature on first-year college students’ experiences might yield useful findings. To our knowledge, few studies exist in the literature that covers the breadth of previous studies on the first-year college experience. This study attempts to address the gap in the literature and carries out a science mapping analysis of existing studies on the first-year college experience.
The study particularly aims to explore published research on the first-year college experience in terms of their bibliometric, methodological, topical, and intellectual structures. More specifically, the study seeks answers to the following questions:
1. What is the bibliometric distribution of the studies regarding the first-year college experience?
2. What is the methodological distribution of studies regarding the first-year college experience?
3. What is the intellectual structure of the knowledge base of first-year experiences of college students?
4. What is the topical foci of the studies regarding the first-year college experience?
The current study, designed as a science mapping analysis, examined the relevant literature in terms of bibliometric, methodological, intellectual, and topical structure. In this aspect, Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols (PRISMA-P) was followed (Shamseer et al., 2015). Data for the present study were gathered using Scopus-indexed journals since it allows to generate databases for systematic reviews as emphasized by Mongenon and Paul-Hus (2016). In the review, the keyword combination of “first-year experience and higher education or college” was used by limiting studies to the last two decades (since 2000). The period between 2000 and 2019 was selected purposefully to be able to investigate the trends in the 21st century higher education context. Furthermore, higher education literature has received a large corpus of studies in recent decades as the study by Aparicio, Iturralde, and Maseda (2020) showed. Scopus search with the keyword combination yielded 253 studies published in the journals between 2000 and 2019. From among these studies, articles were included in the study while commentaries, books, chapters, conference papers, and editorials were excluded. Within screening, 172 studies were revealed out. However, nine were excluded as they were not coherent with the purpose of the study. Considering the eligibility of the studies, 161 articles were selected for final situation. Science mapping,a kind of systematic quantitative analysis of the knowledge base (Hallinger & Kovacevic, 2019) was used. CSV file exported from Scopus database was used to perform VoSViewer citation and co-citation analysis and to find out topical foci of the studies on first-year college experience through keyword co-occurrence analysis. VOSviewer is a software creating visual representations of network maps delineating the relationships among variables. In addition, a publication classification form was constructed in an Excel form to display methodological distribution of the studies. Further, content analysis was performed to describe topical foci of knowledge base. Data were coded individually by the two researchers and then divergent or convergent codes were discussed together so as to form the final list of codes and categories. These categories were then grouped under relevant themes.
The corpus of the first-year experience studies published between 2000 and 2019 indicated an upward trend. This may be an indication of the growth and volume of the literature. Considering journals, highly reputable journals mostly indexed in WoS database (SSCI) including Higher Education Research and Development, Studies in Higher Education, and Higher Education published many articles related to the first-year experience. the US (n = 63), Australia (n = 45), and UK (n = 20) were countries in which most of the first-year college experience studies were performed respectively. Denmark (n = 6), Netherlands (n = 5), Canada (n = 4), Germany (n = 4), Hong Kong (n = 4), South Africa (n = 3), and Spain (n = 3) were the contexts where the studies were frequently conducted. Different from the trend in the literature, the current study showed the dominance of qualitative-method studies. Systematic review studies in the literature generally indicated the dominance of quantitative studies. Tinto, V., Kuh, G. D., Yorke, M., James, R., Pascarella, E. T., and Hurtado, S. drew attention as the most frequently co-cited authors. Intellectual structure of knowledge base emerged from the studies of these scholars stressed the importance of first-year in college, transition to higher education, and student retention. The topical foci of the studies were commonly based on the transition to higher education and student retention. Both content analysis based on the purpose of the studies and co-occurrence analysis revealed this common conclusion. Further, issues related to academic development, student support, globalization, and socio-cultural dynamics were remarkable. In this regard, the current study is coherent with the other studies in the literature. In conclusion, the reason for the emphasis on first-year experiences is derived from meaning attributed to higher education by not only students but also institutions and communities.
Aparicio, G., Iturralde, T., & Maseda, A. (2020). A holistic bibliometric overview of the student engagement research field. Journal of Further and Higher Education. DOI: 10.1080/0309877X.2020.1795092. Aypay, A., Çekiç, O., & Boyacı, A. (2012). Student retention in higher education in Turkey: A qualitative study. Journal of College Student Retention. 14, 1, 91-116. Feldman, R. S: (2005). (Ed.). Improving the first year of college: Research & Practice. Mahwah, NJ. Lawrence Earlbaum Associates. Hallinger, P., & Kovačević, J. (2019). A bibliometric review of research on educational administration: science mapping the literature, 1960 to 2018. Review of Educational Research, 89(3), 335-369. Harvey, L. & Drew, S. (2006). The first-year experirence: a review of literature for the Higher Education Academy. The Higher Education Academy. https://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/Harvey%20papers/Harvey%20and%20Drew%202006.pdf. Mongeon, P., & Paul-Hus, A. (2016). The journal coverage of Web of Science and Scopus: a comparative analysis. Scientometrics, 106(1), 213-228. Nagda, B., Gurin, P., & Johnson, S. M. (2005). Living, doing, and thinking diversity: How does pre-college diversity experience affect first-year students’ engagement with college diversity. In Feldman, R. S. (Ed.). Improving the first year of college: Research & Practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How College Affects Students: A Third Decade of Research. Volume 2. Indianapolis, IN: Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of Wiley. Pope, R. L., Miklitsch, and Weigand, M . J. (2005). First-year students: Embracing their diversity, enhancing our practice. In Feldman, R. S. (Ed.). Improving the first year of college: Research & Practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates. Shamseer, L., Moher, D., Clarke, M., Ghersi, D., Liberati, A., Petticrew, M., ... & Stewart, L. A. (2015). Preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015: elaboration and explanation. Bmj, 349, 1-25.
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