- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (January 15, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226028550
- ISBN-13: 978-0226028552
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 65 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,441,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses
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“A decade ago the United States led the world in the number of college graduates. Today this is no longer the case. Academically Adrift raises serious questions about the quality of the academic and social experiences of college students. Armed with extensive data and comprehensive analyses, the authors provide a series of compelling solutions for how colleges can reverse the tide and renew their emphases on learning. This first-rate book demonstrates why colleges, like K–12 institutions, now more than ever require major reforms to sustain our democratic society.” (Barbara Schneider, Michigan State University)
null (Adam Gamoran, University of Wisconsin–Madison)
“The time, money, and effort that’s required to educate college students helps explain why the findings are so shocking in a new blockbuster book—Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses—that argues that many students aren't learning anything.”
(U.S. News & World Report)
About the Author
Richard Arum is professor in the Department of Sociology with a joint appointment in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. He is also director of the Education Research Program of the Social Science Research Council and the author of Judging School Discipline: The Crisis of Moral Authority in American Schools. Josipa Roksa is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.
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We do know that grade creep is well documented in other places; so, educators need to know what is happening. Have tenure and student evaluations caused professors to give higher grades? Are expectations lower? Are students smarter? Have professors become better teachers? Are text books better? Have didactic methods improved? The author, Richard Arun, tries to assess causes and effects, or at least relationships whether or not they proved to be causal, through the use of the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), which determines "learning," by assessing generic problem solving. Learning is defined to encompass four outcomes--critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and writing. The author provides two examples of CLA problems, which include a scenario, reviewing supporting documents and making a written recommendation. They also provide some objections others have to the use of the CLA, but this is the assessment method used in the book.
Two issues the CLA does not address are what are student expectations, and does everyone need a college degree. Arun discusses the first issue, and a good CLA grade offers no solution. Most students want the degree and the specific professional knowledge needed to succeed in their career field; they are not interested in the type of knowledge for which the CLA tests. This leads to the second issue--why insist on a degree to enter a profession. The author implies that engineering, business and health profession degrees are more training than education, but does not follow up to the conclusion. Though not the focus of the book, it deserves some discussion, especially since much is repetitive and can be pared back.
Arun reaches some obvious conclusions: Spending some time out of class with a professor improves learning over spending no time; spending time reading and writing improves ones writing skills; going to a top tier school is better (on the average) than going to a lower tier school; and, entering college with a good high school foundation is more helpful than a bad foundation. Other conclusions are less important, but statistically relevant: Study groups that are not well organized do not improve learning; social organization detract more than help learning; and racial cultural attitudes do make a difference in learning.
I read the book on a B&W Kindle. Links were good--footnotes and index are linked and TOC links to chapters, though there are no links to chapter sections. Graphs are in B&W but adequately shaded to distinguish categories, so no loss reading on B&W Kindle.
- Students taking courses requiring more than 40 pages of reading a week and a paper of at least 20 pages of length in the course of a semester
- Studying alone rather than in groups (though the authors allow that this may be different among science students completing structured labs)
- Working 10 hours a week, but not much more, and preferably on campus
- Not devoting too much time to fraternities and sororities
- Concentrating in social sciences/humanities or math/science
- Receiving more funding from scholarships and grants as overall percentage of education funding
- Attending more selective schools
- High faculty expectations
- Academic and social preparation for higher education
They also note that on average students spend fewer hours per week studying now than in the past. These findings are not entirely surprising, but they do show that less emphasis on campus social pursuits and group work and more focus on academic rigor would likely be helpful, a refreshing thought. The authors additionally suggest that institutional accountability is a worthy goal, while clearly "consumer-driven" concerns like fancy facilities and social events should likely be de-emphasized. But this last is difficult in the age of "Rate My Professor" where students can share which professors are the least and most demanding, while campus websites highlight athletic facilities and posh dorms.
I'm left with a few questions. Is slightly less than two years an adequate gap between two iterations of this assessment? It's possible that general education classes do not increase analytic and writing skills as much as upper division classes. Have colleges and universities done a better job of teaching these kinds of skills in the past? Thinking about my own experiences, I learned to write concisely and factually from a journalist parent, before college, and gained more analytic skills as a graduate student, and especially on the job, than I did as an undergraduate. Analysis may best be learned by turning people loose on real problems with real consequences, at real work sites. That's my theory. Perhaps we should administer the College Learning Assessment to a sample of entry level and a sample of mid-career professionals, and find out. That would be some interesting data.