The hallmark of the General Education Requirement is FIQWS, the Freshman Writing Inquiry Seminar. In their first semester freshmen take this six-credit seminar, organized around a specific topic (there can be as many as 60 different topics offered in the fall semester). 3 hours of the seminar are spent with a faculty member exploring the specific topic, and 3 hours with a writing instructor, who is often a member of our graduate writing program, in an intensive, 3-hour writing complement that uses the content material provided by the topic seminar. Writing instructor and discipline-based instructor work in coordination.
Resources for FIQWS Instructors
Issues Addressed by FIQWS
The FIQWS seeks to address these challenges to freshman preparation and experience:
- Basic reading and writing skills and engagement in a basic writing course
- The introduction of analytic writing and critical thinking
- Experience in research and writing of a research paper
- The creation of a "learning community"; 6 hours spent with the same group of students and the same team of instructors
- The need for the development of College readiness skills (attendance, timely submission of assignments, and academic integrity).
- The need for close contact with full-time faculty (class size is capped at 26)
In FIQWS, students are invited to explore an exciting college-level subject early in their careers, and this supplies a good amount of academic excitement to a first college experience that it often clogged with more mundane requirements and testing. The topic half of the course is meant to draw students into a new kind of learning, to teach them critical thinking skills, and to walk them through the process of writing a simple research paper. Under Pathways, the topic section of FIQWS will count as one of the areas of the Flexible Core and will address that area's learning outcomes. The research paper is a project shared by both instructors, and together the topic and composition sections of the course go far beyond the teaching of skills. They view writing as the key to critical thinking; as a conduit to other topics that will appear in the General Education Requirement: ethics, logic, political thinking, aesthetics, and the relationship between the individual, culture and society.
College Readiness Skills and FIQWS
In addition, instructors of FIQWS are asked to teach and reinforce basic college-level skills in their FIQWS students: attendance, timely submission of assignments, and academic integrity. Two special classes held in the library integrate research skills with the particular topic of the FIQWS, and the students' research.
FIQWS at CCNY
The FIQWS creates a powerful common experience for City College students, many of whom follow divergent paths soon after freshman year. Our flagship programs in Science, Architecture, and Bio-Medical Education have onerous professional curricula, so that they can adopt only a part of the rest of the General Education Requirement that is followed by students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and yet they, too have adopted FIQWS as part of a binding experience for all City College students.
In sharing the FIQWS, all of the professional students' curricula are balanced by a reminder of City's powerful investment in writing and the arts, and by an exciting course that cuts to the heart of a discipline, explored with a full-time faculty member.
It is also important to note more evanescent factors in the FIQWS:
Faculty investment in the FIQWS, in which the subject is specific and open to faculty interest, translates inevitably into student investment. Also, central to the FIQWS is the fact that we believe freshman experience must reach far beyond the mastery of skills. FIQWS includes a glimpse of academic excitement and possibility in the heart of a new subject and the synergy of faculty and student investment. It is about harnessing the powerful intellectual energy within the institution; finding where the faculty energy is and couple it with student experience.