- 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: 66 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #977,301 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)
“This provocative study demands attention at all levels, including leaders of higher education, researchers, students, parents, and the general public. It confirms that students who encounter faculty with high expectations and demanding courses tend to learn more than others. Among its most troubling findings are the persistent racial gaps in learning rates during college. The implications of these and other findings should be widely discussed.” (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)
“For a short book, it takes a major step towards evidence-based assessment of student learning. . . . All university managers might like to read 40 pages of this book a week for the next five weeks and produce a 20-page report on ‘Countering Academic Drift: Developing Critical Thinking in the University.’”
“Whatever criticism this book provokes in the higher-education establishment, its value is enormous. The disconcerting findings of Arum and Roksa should resonate well beyond the academy.”
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.
The main focus of "Academically Adrift" is a standardized test known as the Collegiate Learning Assessment or CLA. This particular study was conducted among 2,300 undergraduate students from 24 different universities across the nation. The CLA is definitely not your typical multiple choice test. Rather, the CLA consists of three open-ended assessment components: a performance task and two analytical writing tasks. The purpose of this test is to try to evaluate a student's critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and writing skills. And what Arum and Roksa discovered is certainly cause for alarm. Essentially, the results of this study strongly suggest that after two years of college the vast majority of students show precious little improvement in their capacity for critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing. While it is extremely important for students to master the material presented in textbooks and in class shouldn't we expect more from our colleges and universities?
As part of the research project that led to "Academically Adrift" Arum and Roksa also conducted a 26 question survey of the participating students that appears in the appendix of the book. Very revealing indeed! The results of this survey underscores the importance of rigorous coursework requirements, high faculty expectations, time devoted to studying and the potentially negative impact of employment and extracurricular activities. In altogether too many cases academics takes a back seat to working, socializing with friends and participating in campus activities. Too many students seem to buy into the notion of doing the least amount of work just to get by. According to statistics cited by the authors today's students spend considerably less time studying than their peers did 25 and 50 years ago. Furthermore, the study also found that half of students did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during the prior semester and one-third did not take a single course requiring 40 pages of reading per week. Does this sound like college-level work to you? In doing some research for this review I came across a website from Alfred University. In commenting on Arum and Roksa's study an assistant professor of media studies joked "40 pages of what? How much would be gained if I were to assign 40 pages of comic books a week?" As far as I am concerned this is precisely the kind of attitude that we need to change. Trust me, there is an awful to chew on this book and time will simply not permit me to touch on all of the important issues the authors dicuss.
Finally, reading "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning On College Campuses" may also cause you to rethink the whole subject of higher education in America. For example, has the time finally come to discard the "college for all" philosophy that has been in vogue in this country for the past 30 or 40 years? Clearly not everyone belongs in college and buying into this philosophy only serves to prop up an extremely bloated system. When I was in high school guidance counselors served as "gatekeepers" pointing the less academically gifted students in the direction of vocational schools and other career opportunities. Let's face it, there is an awful lot of money to be made in the trades these days. Furthermore, I believe it is time to reexamine the wisdom in taking out college loans in order to finance an education. A shocking number of students never even graduate and are left with nothing but a mountain of debt to show for it. At the same time, many students emerging from four year institutions are not only poorly educated but also find themselves tens of thousands of dollars in debt to boot. I think there is an awful lot of wisdom in going the community college route. And what kind of a market is there for those individuals who choose to major in subjects like "area, ethnic, cultural and gender studies"? If these folks can't find a job please don't blame me or society-at-large. Frankly, we don't want to hear it! Finally, if parents and students make the decision to go to college it is extremely important that the student is fully focused on what he/she really wants to accomplish in school. All too often Arum and Roksa found students who had absolutely no idea what they were doing in college and really were "academically adrift". At the end of the day Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa have given us a very scholarly and well-researched book. Since I am not from academia I found myself struggling with terminology from time to time. "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning On College Campuses" will challenge much of what you believe about higher education in the United States. This is a thought-provoking book that is well-worth your time. Highly recommended!
I agreed with many of the authors' recommendations about increased rigor and correspondingly increased resources
In education. Yet many students are unprepared so as individual faculty increased rigor can be completely impractical. And for adjuncts it is nearly impossible. Their job security depends on good student evaluations. Yet they teach the vast majority of the foundation courses. They, even more than tenured faculty need institutional support for rigor in teaching.