- 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: #1,793,825 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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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!
So, as you see, the assignment is not trivial and does indeed require a significant level of critical analysis and communication ability. Then from several thousand graded responses from a wide variety of institutions from selective (Harvard, etc.) to open enrollment, the objective is to interpret the results. For instance, one would like to determine how these abilities in critical thinking and writing have changed while the student has been in college, so the test is administered at the very beginning of the student's college experience and at the end of the sophomore year.
Then questions regarding effects of factors prior to college entry are addressed: Student gender, race/ethnicity, Parental occupation, non-English home language, Two-parent household, Number of siblings, Non-white high school, urbanicity, geographic region.
Then the effects of prior academic preparation on the test is explored: SAT/ACT scores, number of AP courses, High school grades.
Then, what factors in college affect the score: Hours spent studying alone, Hours spent studying with peers, Hours spent in fraternity/sorority, Field of study, Faculty expectations of student, Reading/writing course requirements, Percent of college costs covered by grants/scholarships.
Finally, What effect does the selectivity of the institution attended have upon the improvement on the test?
Then in the next couple hundred pages they analyze each of the above factors, they can strip off that factor from the test results and ask what effect the next factor has.
Lots and lots of interesting results including: 1) Hours spent studying alone correlate strongly with results on test but hours spent studying with peers actually correlates negatively with grades and test score. 2) "Policy makers have focused on keeping students in college, assuming if they stay in and graduate they will learn. But the causual arrows do not seem to point in that direction. Simply staying enrolled does not ensure that students learn much. On the other hand, students who are learning and challenged will likely stay enrolled." 3) They conclude that increasing the numbers of enrolled and graduating students is not equivalent to enhanced capacity for critical thinking and complex reasoning. And finally, 4) "Historically, many students came to college with little commitment to academic learning. These embrace college life, complete with fraternities, clubs & social networks shaped by a peer culture oriented toward nonacademic endeavors. These students expect college to provide new social experiences and credentialization in which academic work is a necessary evil. Though this has always been true to some extent, recent evidence shows that the time students spent in class and studying in 1960 averaged about 40 hrs per week and that today that total is about 27 hrs." (As an aside, when I taught at a for-profit college, my students would spend 3 (resentful) hours in class each week and I'd judge, between 1 and 2 hrs per week studying. Though I have taught at some credible schools, UNC-Asheville, North Greenville college (A christian madrassa), it is a bit depressing to acknowledge that much of my role as a college professor consisted in making sure that students who could not/would not do the requisite work did not complete their college degree.)