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First-year students quickly learn how research can make a difference

By Antoinette Mercurio

Faculty of Arts first-year student fair

The fifth annual SSH 100 fair gives first-year students an opportunity to present their research about how to improve the transition to university for new students.

First-year arts students are learning early on how to make their mark.

Faculty of Arts students in SSH 100 Introduction to the Social Sciences presented the results of their group research project at the fifth annual SSH 100 fair. Students had to make a case for and research one change at Ryerson that would ease the transition to university for first-year students. Students chose topics ranging from how to navigate around campus and early-class schedules to safety measures and sleep deprivation. Sociology professor Alan Sears says the project is intended to teach the different stages of the research process.

“Week by week we’re teaching them how to identify a problem and investigate it,” Sears said. “Not only that but they’re learning about Ryerson and their life on campus as first-years. They’re beginning to understand why research matters and how it can make a difference.”

The first-year researchers were mentored by upper-year students in SSH 500 Peer Learning Experience. It was a learning experience for the senior students who guided the first-years through research challenges and met with the group once a week to facilitate their progress. Sears says it’s an opportunity for them to learn how to lead and mentor and observe how learning takes place.

Team members Ian Campbell, Priya Chahal, Marie-Laure Cantin and Denis Evans worked together on Welcome, Study, Can You? They investigated how the university can improve learning environments, specifically increasing study space at the library. They tackled their objective through journal article research, observations and interviews.

“We learned a lot about library resources and what services are available,” Cantin said.

Chahal added, “You miss a lot by not looking. You notice people sitting in aisles, making space wherever they can and you can see how unsure students are when they come to library; they don’t know where to go.”

Chahal says first-years often feel intimidated and are scared to ask questions. To help ease the transition to university, the group recommended creating a library handbook that lists all resources and services and could be included in a welcome package at the beginning of the year. The group also suggested moving group study space areas to the new Student Learning Centre once it’s completed and extending library hours to 24-7.

“It’s good to see students standing with their work,” Sears said at the fair. “Often their work is an abstract item they produce and they’re a bit separate from. But here they have to answer questions and represent it. They’ve immersed themselves in the material and I’m always happy to see that.”

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