Academically Adrift (Arum & Roksa, 2011)

Academically Adrift: Limited learning on college campuses (by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, 2011)

Almost half of students in college may not learn anything in their first two years, say authors Arum and Roksa. In a discussion at Queens University of Charlotte’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), faculty members from around the university discussed this issue and its ramifications for teaching.

Arum and Roska point to graduates’ ability to think critically as the intended result of a collegiate education. Some of the issues related to success in this area include:

  • Expectations of teachers: Often, teachers ask too little of their students.
  • Amount of reading required in the class: 40 pages (or more) per week stimulates critical thinking and learning.
  • Time spent studying: Individual or collective time spent with course information improves learning.

These issues surround faculty expectation and student motivation which function hand-in-hand. “When you have students reporting spending fewer than 5 hours per week studying, something is wrong with the college and university model,” says Arum.  “Colleges and universities that are more selective tend to ask more of their students.” How then do instructors and students negotiate a shared understanding of expectations.

The issue for us is creating an academic institution that fosters growth in critical thinking. The students who really learn are the ones who have the ability to distill information and process it. Our job is to teach them how to independently process information from a variety of sources – to teach them how to “self-teach.”

The faculty’s conversation surrounded Queens’ CORE program in the liberal arts; the need for developmental reading and writing programs, first-year experience programs, and coordination with student development offices; student retention; and the opportunity to innovate in student programming.

The conversation continues.

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