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Thursday, March 24, 2011

ARE we "Academically Adrift?"

The recently published, somewhat controversial and apparently eye-opening book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, has already been featured in a number of blog and newsletter articles. Research for the book was supported by various well-known organizations, including the Lumina and Ford foundations, and the Carnegie Corporation.

This opening salvo, "Colleges and Universities, for all the benefits they bring, accomplish far less for their students than they should,"  a quote by Derek Box, former president of Harvard University, apparently sets the tone for "Adrift." At issue, at least on the surface, is a wide-spread conviction that undergraduate students leave college with less-than-stellar (or perhaps non-existent) critical and analytical thinking skills.

On the other hand, the book acknowledges early on that students surveyed in made comments such as, "I hate classes with a lot of reading that is tested on. Any class where a teacher is just gonna give us notes and a worksheet or something like that is better. . .Whereas, if I'm expected to read. . .and then write a three page essay on it. . .I'll probably do worse on that test because I probably wouldn't have read the book. . .I rarely actually do reading assignments or stuff like that, which is a mistake I'm sure, but it saves me a lot of time."

That being the case, does the fault lie with colleges, or with earlier educational organizations? And even if we believe students should come to college with better skills, what should/can we do to ensure that those students leave us with the skills and knowledge they need?

I've just started reading the book, and I'm sure as an educator I'll be by turn appalled and defensive, but it should be an interesting read based on the attention it is receiving. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. You have to lend it to me next. I quizzed Erin on how many classes she is in that use essay exams -- most of them. And I really notice that at CMC every class I check includes a tremendous amount of essay/written work. Perhaps this is a problem at the major research universities and nowhere else?