First Year Experience

The first year of university is a time of social and academic transition for students, and their early experiences are critical to their success (Tinto 1994). Facing the unprecedented challenges in students experience, students success, and student retention, the York University First-Year Experience (FYE) Working Group sets out a framework to provide a comprehensive, coordinated, high quality experience for new students.

Drawing on a wide array of theory, and most notably the work of Alf Lizzio (2006), York is committed to fostering new student success by focusing on five areas of need, or “senses of success.” More specifically, Lizzio argues that students’ success at university depends on their: (a) sense of capability; (b) sense of connectedness; (c) sense of purpose; (d) sense of resourcefulness; and (e) sense of academic culture. (A Case for Change: A First Year Experience Framework at York University, 2013, p. 5).

As part of an Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) Project, Susan Murtha, Associate Dean Teaching & Learning, Faculty of Health and Diane Woody, Former Associate Dean Teaching & Learning, LA&PS have created an extensive resource for Course Directors and Teaching Assistants: First-Year Experience (FYE) In The Classroom Toolkit.  In essence the toolkit contains the information first year instructors/TAs asked for when they participated in the focus group sessions that Susan and Diane held last year, i.e., essential information that everyone who teaches first year courses should know, answers to commonly asked questions, information about our students and resources for helping students transition through first year, and some items that they hope will inspire you.  The FYE toolkit website will continue to undergo further updates this year, so if you happen to use any tools or information in it, Susan ( and Diane ( would love to hear from you.  If you have any feedback on this current incarnation of the website please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Follow the following links to receive information on:

 Examples of Good Practice

PSYC 1010 6.00 Introduction to Psychology. Dr Ron Sheese shows how he engages first year students with the content and with writing. He also shows how one can incorporate fully online resource to aid students in their research and writing called SPARK – Student Papers and Academic Research Kit . Topics in SPARK include: Understanding the assignment; time management;  academic integrity; choosing a topic;  books, journals, and more. Activities in SPARK are available for both students to use or for instructors to incorporate into their courses.

SPARK – Student Papers and Academic Research Kit

Professor Dennis Raphael
Health Policy and Management, Faculty of Health
Teaching 1st Year Undergraduates in Large Groups

Part 1

View Transcript of the Dennis Raphael Video, Part 1

Part 2

View Transcript of the Dennis Raphael Video, Part 2

York Support

The Teaching Commons offer workshop sessions and a Community of Practice that include seminars and hands-on activities.

We are currently offering the following:

Dates and registration for First Year Experience courses.

Resources Internal to York

First-Year Experience (FYE) In The Classroom Toolkit is an extensive resource for Course Directors and Teaching Assistants.

A Case for Change PowerPoint presentation is based on the Case for Change: A First Year Experience Framework at York University (2013) and details York’s vision of the first year student experience for 2018.

Student Experience and Student Success – AIF Funded Projects lists the phase one (1) funded projects of the Academic Innovation Fund.

YU START – New Student Transition Program is your access point to the new student transition program at York University.

YU START – New Student Transition Program Administrative Report outlines the purposes, goals, and outcomes of the YU Start program at York.

SPARK – Student Papers & Academic Research Kit is a gateway for your students to learn about and focus on research, writing and learning through modules. This website includes various examples, templates, and videos.

Atkinson Centre for Mature and part-time Students provides resources for mature and part-time students from recruitment through to graduation. Staff are available to assist students in their transition to university studies and to help them navigate their York experience.

Resources External to York

Large First-Year Course Re-Design to Promote Student Engagement and Student Learning

This Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario has completed a study with findings that suggest by re-designing courses to provide lecture content online and focusing instructor time on discussion and problem solving, students show a stronger engagement with the material and a more in-depth style of learning.

First year Resources, National Resources Center, Columbia SC provides numerous links and resources on first year seminars and workshops, publications and research.