What are College Students Learning? – Not Much!

Dear Commons Community,

Greg Johnson, a colleague of mine at Hunter College, has sent a piece from the Huffington Post summarizing the results of a new book and study entitled,  “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” by Richard Arum of New York University, and  Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia.     The study is based on a survey of more than 2,300 undergraduates at 24 colleges.  Among the study’s findings are that:

_45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years;

_after four years, 36 percent of students did not demonstrate significant improvement;

_Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains.

_Social engagement generally does not help student performance. Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth and students who spent more time in the Greek system had decreased rates of learning, while activities such as working off campus, participating in campus clubs and volunteering did not impact learning.

_Students from families with different levels of parental education enter college with different learning levels but learn at about the same rates while attending college. The racial gap between black and white students going in, however, widens: Black students improve their assessment scores at lower levels than whites.

The above should provide fuel for the growing interest in more formal student assessments at the undergraduate level.


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