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Study Finds Fault With Learning in Colleges

"Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses"

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Students may not be learning as much in college, or working as hard, as their tuition-paying parents might expect, according to a report released last week by the New York-based Social Science Research Council.

The study is based on an analysis of about 2,300 undergraduates at 24 four-year institutions to measure students’ learning and study habits.

Traditional-age college freshmen from schools varying in size, selectivity, and missions, from liberal arts colleges to large research institutions, were contacted in the fall of 2005, in 2007 during their sophomore year, and again in the spring of 2009 to take a survey and the College Learning Assessment. The CLA measures general competencies, such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and written communication.

Among the study’s findings:

• Forty-five percent of students had no significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication during the first two years of college; 36 percent demonstrated no significant gains in those areas over four years of college.

• Fifty percent of students did not take a course requiring more than 20 pages of writing during a typical semester, and one-third did not take a course requiring at least 40 pages of reading per week, according to survey results.

• On average, students spent 12 hours per week studying.

To improve such statistics, the report suggests that colleges should foster an institution-wide culture of learning and change incentives to make learning a priority.

Vol. 30, Issue 18, Page 5

Published in Print: January 26, 2011, as Study Faults Learning on College Campuses
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