By Tom Pinkham
What are American students learning in college? Not much according to a new study. Forty-five percent of the 2,300 college students surveyed showed “no significant improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore year” according to “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” which just published the study.
The reason, according to authors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa is that college students are simply not asked to do very much. They complain about feeling “disconnected” from their professors. One student said he could get by with “Wikipedia” research. Others complained that they felt the colleges were being run like giant corporations, treating students like consumers.
Of course, students are not blameless, either. Many in the study sought out easy courses. Half of these students never took a course that required 20 pages of writing in a course, or 40 pages per week of reading. Not surprisingly, traditional arts and sciences majors did better on the survey than others. Not surprising either, the professionals blame the research instrument, saying that researchers still, “don’t know how to measure learning.”
The need is quite clear, however: It is for more accountability. At our school accountability begins with personal relationships that recognize the unique gifts and abilities of both teacher and student. Standardized testing measures gains. Seminars and workshops keep teachers sharp.
In the end, it is all about attitude. Ours is that mediocrity will not due.