Do undergrads learn much in college?
Many students don’t. That’s the conclusion of a new book that’s got the higher-ed world buzzing today. The book is Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, which was published by the University of Chicago Press.
A pair of professors at New York University and the University of Virginia wrote the book based on a study that followed 2,300 students who started college in 2005. The students attended 24 unnamed institutions, but they included state flagships, elite liberal arts colleges and historically black and Hispanic-serving institutions.
Here are some of the book’s disturbing findings:
- 45% of college students didn’t demonstrate any significant learning as freshmen and sophomores.
- More than one out of three college seniors were no better at writing and reasoning than they were when they first arrived at college.
- Many of the students who did learn in college showed only modest acquisition of knowledge.
The researchers measured student progress — or lack of progress – by taking the Collegiate Learning Assessment, which is a respected essay test that measures reasoning and writing skills.
Why Aren’t Undergrads Learning?
Why are so many college students not learning? Here’s a big reason: Not much is expected of them. Many students can graduate from college without spending much time reading or writing.
There is one bright spot:
Student who majored in one of the liberal arts did experience “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.”
Students who majored in business, education, social work and communications showed the tiniest gains.
More Coverage on This Topic
I haven’t gotten a review copy of the book yet, but once I do I will probably have more to say about this important topic. In the meantime, here is some coverage of the book:
New Book Lays Failure to Learn on College Doorsteps
Are Undergraduates Actually Learning Anything?
How Much Do Students Learn and Study?
And here’s a related post from The Chronicle of Higher Education:
Writing Assignments Are Scare For Students in 2 Majors at Texas Colleges
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller and a workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. Follow her on Twitter.