Making a first impression: Exploring what instructors do and say on the first day of introductory stem courses

A. Kelly Lane, Clara L. Meaders, J. Kenny Shuman, Mackenzie R. Stetzer, Erin L. Vinson, Brian A. Couch, Michelle K. Smith, Marilyne Stains

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


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 subcate-gories. 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 uncov-ered 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalCBE life sciences education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Lane et al. CBE—Life Sciences Education © 2021 The American Society for Cell Biology.


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