Study: College Students Aren’t Learning Much

A new study caught my eye today.  It basically found that college students are learning next to nothing.  Say what?  The study of more than 2.300 undergrads found 45% show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.

That hits home for me.  I have a sophomore in college, so I shot him a text right away, with a bunch of questions.

  • “Is that true for you?
  • Have you learned anything since high school?”
  • “Are you studying?”
  • Are you wasting my money?”

OK, I didn’t ask him that last one.  But I WAS thinking it.  The study’s findings come from a new book, “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.” It found that students just aren’t asked to do much.  From AP story:

Half of students did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.

I was a little surprised that my son shot me back a reply right away.  (He must have been studying.) He answered all my questions (including the one I was thinking) in a round about way.  “I didn’t learn anything in high school (that’s makes me feel better), so no I don’t think that’s true,” he texted.  On his study habits he said, “It depends on if I have a test that week.  A lot more than a week I have no test.”

The book and study tracked students through four years of college.  Here are some other findings as reported by AP:

  • Overall, the picture doesn’t brighten much over four years. After four years, 36 percent of students did not demonstrate significant improvement, compared to 45 percent after two.
  • Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools, and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains.
  • Social engagement generally does not help student performance. Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth, and students who spent more time in the Greek system had decreased rates of learning, while activities such as working off campus, participating in campus clubs and volunteering did not impact learning.

Uh-oh.  That last one has me worried again.  My son is big into his frat.  So I shot back another text to him with this: “Study says Greek system decreases rates of learning. Hope that’s not true.” Once again I was shocked to get a quick reply (especially since I didn’t promise to send him money). His response?

“Well, you either learn or fail.”

I responded:

“Profound.  Thanks.”

All is well once again.

One Comment on “Study: College Students Aren’t Learning Much

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