Date of Award

Fall 9-15-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Caroline Heller

Second Advisor

George Hein

Third Advisor

Joseph Kahne


What is success in college? And what are the implications of that success (or failure) in the life of students after college and for society more broadly? This ethnographic study explores first-year college programming and the potential benefits of diapraxis-inspired instructional methods as a bridge to authentic dialogue for 18- and 19-year-old (emerging adult) students and the foundation for more productive civic engagement in the post-college adult lives of students. Opportunities for dialogue are lacking in many college classrooms, especially during the first year, and, given the current lack of civil communication between adults on a national and global scale, building these skills in young adults is a critical need. The researcher was embedded in a first-year seminar as a participant-observer to collect qualitative data. She collected data on classroom culture and dynamics while also facilitating occasional classroom diapraxis-activities inspired by the work of Rasmussen (1988). Follow-up interviews were conducted with the study participants after the course concluded. Key findings include the following: Some of these 18- and 19-year-olds are lacking the active listening skills needed to participate in dialogic settings; the social-emotional needs of students can impede learning and participation in dialogue; first-year students need to master college-level reading and writing skills before engaging in a discussion of college-level course content. A major conclusion is that relationship-building (between faculty and students and among students) and dialogue-building instructional methods should be emphasized alongside the delivery of content in the design of first-year programs.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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