Friday, January 21, 2011

Academically Adrift...Are College Students Learning Core Skills?

A new book entitled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (University of Chicago Press) states that more than a third of American college seniors are no better at crucial types of writing and reasoning tasks than they were in their first semester of college (see excerpt in the Chronicle of Higher Education).

The study, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, of 3,000 students at 29 four-year universities found that 45 percent "did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning" during their first two years in college as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA). The authors attributed much of the problem to easy courses and lax study habits.

Some of the key points to the book include:
  • US students today "define and understand their college experiences as being focused more on social than on academic development." 
  • In a particular semester, 32 percent of those surveyed did not take any course with more than 40 pages of reading per week and 50 percent did not take a single course in which they wrote more than 20 pages.
  • The study cited another report as saying that students now spend just 12 to 14 hours studying each week, 50 percent less than full-time college students did a few decades ago.
  • Much of this studying takes place in social group settings, which the report said are "not generally conducive to learning," and 35 percent of students said they spend five or fewer hours a week studying alone, it added.
  • The value of studying in groups is questioned as this "seems to be difficult for students to pull off in a way that promotes learning, as opposed to being a social occasion,"
 Also read, New Book Lays Failure to Learn on Colleges' Doorsteps by David Glenn

Do you believe that university students truly fail to develop critical thinking, reasoning and writing skills because of easy classes and too little time spent studying?

Are you aware of any studies that determine the development of critical thinking and reasoning skills with students in career and technology education?

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