I am currently trying (though so far not very successfully) to find the time to read some very interesting and/or promising books on my desk. Today I have finally got around to the book: “Academically adrift” by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. The main subjects covered are: How much do college/university students really learn? Are they getting real value for money? The short answer is, according to the authors, “not much”.
The authors have used survey responses, transcript data, and the Collegial Learning Assessment (a standardised test for students in their first semester) to figure out how much college students actually learn. The authors claim that a significant proportion of students could not demonstrate any significant improvement in skills like critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing. What does this tell us? Are we failing the students, or are they failing themselves (and the society)?
Interestingly, though the average student in these studies use just 20 hours (including lecture time) of study time each week, only half of what an average student used in the 60`s, the drop has not had a significant impact on grade point averages. The authors introduce the term “The art of college management” to describe this phenomena: “[…] in which success is achieved primarily not through hard work, but through controlling college by shaping schedules, taming professors and limiting workload” (Arum & Roksa, 2011, p. 4).
The authors also found that students were ill prepared for college. They had “limited knowledge about their chosen occupations, about educational requirements, or about future demand for these occupations” (p. 3). They seem to have high ambitions, but no clear life plans for reaching them. When they enter college they are therefore, the authors claim, “largly academically adrift” (p.3).
I think that these are real challenges, but I cannot think of one, great idea that can put an end to this problem. I believe that we have to put some effort into preparing them better for college, and that work should start already in junior high school. Since we are experiencing a rapid inflation in education, it is only natural that we will see more and more students in higher education, and we cannot continue to lower expectations all the time, or soon a college education will mean no more than high school. And what can we do when they have already entered college? I believe in good planning, making the standards we expect clear to the students right away, and maybe stop using so much time on reproducing knowledge. I think that more teachers should do what they have done at the radiography department here at GUC, namely not using one set of syllabus text. They are just handing the students “suggested reading”/”resource materials” lists and thus encouraging the students to become autonomous, good students that find what they need of information themselves. A very good idea, I think!
I am looking forward to the rest of this book.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Arum, R., & Roksa, J. (2011). Academically adrift: limited learning on college campuses. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.