- 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: #2,028,200 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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- 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.
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!