Papers in the Biological Sciences


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CBE Life Sci Educ March 1, 2021 20:ar7 DOI:10.1187/cbe.20-05-0098


Student impressions formed during the first day of class can impact course satisfaction and performance. Despite its potential importance, little is known about how instructors format the first day of class. Here, we report on observations of the first day of class in 23 introductory science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses. We first described how introductory STEM instructors structure their class time by characterizing topics covered on the first day through inductive coding of class videos. We found that all instructors discussed policies and basic information. However, a cluster analysis revealed two groups of instructors who differed primarily in their level of STEM content coverage. We then coded the videos with the noncontent Instructor Talk framework, which organizes the statements instructors make unrelated to disciplinary content into several categories and subcategories. Instructors generally focused on building the instructor–student relationship and establishing classroom culture. Qualitative analysis indicated that instructors varied in the specificity of their noncontent statements and may have sent mixed messages by making negatively phrased statements with seemingly positive intentions. These results uncovered variation in instructor actions on the first day of class and can help instructors more effectively plan this day by providing messages that set students up for success.

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