Wednesday, January 19, 2011

College students not learning the basic skills that college should teach...survey says

Here: Study: Many college students not learning to think critically


By Sara Rimer, The Hechinger Report | The Hechinger Report

NEW YORK — An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn't learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn't determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

Arum, whose book "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses" (University of Chicago Press) comes out this month, followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective.

Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called "higher order" thinking skills.

Combining the hours spent studying and in class, students devoted less than a fifth of their time each week to academic pursuits. By contrast, students spent 51 percent of their time — or 85 hours a week — socializing or in extracurricular activities."


No surprise there.

Of course, the excuses are inevitably there, although only in the final two paragraphs:

"Christine Walker, a senior at DePauw who's also student body president, said the study doesn't reflect her own experience: She studies upwards of 30 hours a week and is confident she's learning plenty. Walker said she and her classmates are juggling multiple non-academic demands, including jobs, to help pay for their education and that in today's economy, top grades aren't enough.

"If you don't have a good resume," Walker said, "the fact that you can say, 'I wrote this really good paper that helped my critical thinking' is going to be irrelevant." "

But you can't fucking think. You cannot think, you just got a piece of paper that says you're skilled while you can't do what it says.

It's possible to get plenty of experience working at World Wraps without going through the trouble of going to college, so maybe folks who are thinking primarily about their resume should consider doing one without the other.

"Students who majored in the traditional liberal arts — including the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics — showed significantly greater gains over time than other students in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills.

Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings don't preclude the possibility that such students "are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills.""

Which pretty much says it all.

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