Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Are Our Students Learning?

with 10 comments

Apparently not—and it’s mostly our fault:

The main culprit for lack of academic progress of students, according to the authors, is a lack of rigor. They review data from student surveys to show, for example, that 32 percent of students each semester do not take any courses with more than 40 pages of reading assigned a week, and that half don’t take a single course in which they must write more than 20 pages over the course of a semester. Further, the authors note that students spend, on average, only about 12-14 hours a week studying, and that much of this time is studying in groups.

10 Responses

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  1. well it’s not YOUR fault:

    “Students majoring in liberal arts fields see “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.” Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the smallest gains. (The authors note that this could be more a reflection of more-demanding reading and writing assignments, on average, in the liberal arts courses than of the substance of the material.)”


    January 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

    • Well, naturally I took that for granted.


      January 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

    • You beat me to this.


      January 18, 2011 at 11:55 am

  2. Only a small subset of college students are supposed to learn actual knowledge – this is why we have graduate school. The rest are supposed to learn to be social. Some small fraction of college graduates are tracked toward some kind of elite social field (politics, business). This has its subsets too: people who are being tracked toward a less-elite social field (bureaucratic, usually). Another major portion are just being lured into a debt trap. The remainder are those who learn something. Of course, a low learning-rate has impacts on “international competitiveness.” But that problem starts a lot further earlier.


    January 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

    • “Another major portion are just being lured into a debt trap.” Ironically this fact and its consequences would be among the most useful things to teach them.


      January 18, 2011 at 11:13 am

  3. “a lot further earlier” – and here I am talking about low learning levels.


    January 18, 2011 at 11:55 am

  4. more on how no one writes anymore:

    “supposed to learn to be social” — this should probably be read in the web 2.0 sense (and i’m sure you meant it that way).


    January 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    • Not the web 2.0 sense, exactly (although that’s part of it). More like the sense Bourdieu conveys in Distinctions: people in fraternities, for instance, learn a certain way of talking, a certain way of relating to one another, a certain way of thinking about the world, etc. College, in general, has this effect: it trains students in a certain way of relating to the world. Whether they learn material or not, people who have been to college “fit” in bureaucratic capitalism much better than people who have not.


      January 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm

  5. Guys, get it real. I am from Europe and have a comparison. Coming back not to Ivy School, but the largest public research University – my diagnosis.
    Complete “liquidity” and trained brains to learn for the test and forget. Libraries are empty (no maybe comfy chairs and electric outlets for laptops not). People are constantly texting during classes and are glued to FACEBOOK during lectures.
    It looks like a joke. No enthusiasm, no connection, no passion. Just weberian “light cloak”.
    (I am under the spell of my countryman Zygmunt Bauman…)


    January 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm

  6. I am not referring to engineering and science of course.
    And not to business medicine:)


    January 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm

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