Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: Academically Adrift

Author: Richard Arum & Josipa Roksa

Title: Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

Description: Arum and Roksa have written an academic book that successfully crossed over to become something of a mainstream seller as well. They attempt to discover why college students do not seem to be making much progress in learning between their matriculation and the end of their sophomore years.

Writing style: Academic.

Audience: Educators, and perhaps more broadly, those who want to know “what’s wrong with kids these days.”

Major ideas: The study tested the students with a test called the CLA which measured critical thinking and problem-solving. Here’s the thing: I can understand that we want students to measurably improve in critical thinking and problem solving, but most colleges (well, mine at least) don’t have general education courses called Critical Thinking or Problem Solving. They have Composition, College Algebra, American History, and so on. So are the professors teaching them critical thinking and problem solving in these classes? Well, hopefully, they are, at least some. But mostly they are teaching the content of those classes, because that’s what they feel responsible for. So to say students aren’t learning in college is sort of harsh. They may be learning composition and algebra. I realize that we hope to be growing critical thinkers, but I also think it’s tough to condemn colleges when they have no curriculum in place to teach what these authors are measuring and what may be a process of maturing along with education. After all, they matriculate at 18 and took the CLA at 19. I would hate for my college (Wheaton) to be judged on me at 19!

The authors do make the point that students do best in courses in which they are required to read more than 40 pages per week and write more than 20 pages during the course. I shall heretofore make this my goal for all of my courses...

Wrap-up: Thought-provoking indeed, but I’m not sure I buy the whole argument. 3/5*
Here's another view...

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