Friday, January 21, 2011


From today’s Chronicle of Higher Education, Richard Vedder reviews Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia. Vedder notes that Arum and Roksa conclude that “students study little and, as a consequence, learn little.” Drawing on some results from test instruments, these researchers conclude that “gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills (i.e., general collegiate skills) are either exceedingly small or empirically non-existent for a large proportion of students”; 36 percent of students experienced no significant improvement in learning over four years of schooling; “less than one-half of seniors had completed over 20 pages of writing for a course in the prior semester”; “total time spent in academic pursuits is 16 percent”; “students are academically engaged, typically, well under 30 hours per week”; “scholarship from earlier decades suggest there has been a sharp decline in both academic work effort and learning”; “students…majoring in traditional liberal-arts fields…demonstrated significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study. Students majoring in business, education, social work ,and communications had the lowest measurable gains”; “35 percent of the students sampled spent five hours or less a week studying alone; the average for all students was under 9 hours.” This ought to be disturbing to a school like ours recruiting students from such undergraduate programs.

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