Educating Our College Students

Everybody’s college experience is different in the United States.  So much so, that it’s difficult to generalize and hypothesize on whether or not college students are learning anything. However, new research from NYU sociologist Richard Arum suggests that college students are definitively not learning.

“[Arum] notes that several studies suggest students are spending less time studying, reading and writing than they have in the past. And he cites a recent analysis conducted by a consortium of universities that showed no significant improvement in critical thinking after four years.”

Of course, critics argue that Arum’s research is flawed.  He worked with 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities; he drew his conclusions based upon testing results and student surveys.

The better question is not necessarily are students learning at universities but how and why they learn.  Arum “hopes his data will encourage colleges and universities to look within for ways to improve teaching and learning.”  At the end of the day, teenagers have to look at college as an investment opportunity. At what price does the cost of attending college no longer become worth it — especially as tuition rates climb into the $50,000 per year level and leave college graduates with crippling debt and only entry level job opportunities.
Coincidentally, a new study by Elizabeth Bonawitz seems to indicate that learning and teaching is a double-edge sword: “When teachers provided specific instructions about a new toy, children learned how to play with it more efficiently. But the lessons also curtailed their exploratory streak. They were less likely to play with the toy in new ways. Ultimately, they failed to find all of its secrets.”  Could the same be true for college students?  [via Volokh]

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