Shame, Shame? Students Adrift Because of US?

A few of you have indicated an interest in getting the book, Academically Adrift, reading it, and discussing it in May – sometime during Senior Week. I will not be able to buy a copy the book for all (but it is only $9.99 on my Kindle!). But the book continues to make waves. So, as we want our students to do, we should go to the source and read the book. Since I have a few *other* things to read this week and for class (!), I probably won’t get to it until Spring Break.

In the meantime, I am posting this link to an editorial by NYU history professor Jonathan Zimmerman, who says perhaps it is OUR collective faults that students are not learning. Do we ask them to do enough?

Read this editorial from the Chronicle and post your thoughts. Thanks to Debbi Johnson-Ross for the link!

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5 Responses to Shame, Shame? Students Adrift Because of US?

  1. Maggie says:

    It is frustrating that the author cites correlational research to support his viewpoint of how to fix the problems in education. A correlation between how many classes you’ve taken that require more than 20 pages of writing and how you perform on the CLA doesn’t prove anything. Assuming cause-and-effect relationships from correlational research is a basic error of analysis that we teach our intro psych students to avoid.

  2. gretchenmckay says:

    I am interested in reading the entire study, too. Have you read it? Do you plan to do so? It worries me that we’re condemning things based on a test…can’t there be other measures to monitor how students are learning?

  3. Bob Trader says:

    Some thoughts:

    1. What is higher education really for? I believe it is to help people to be able to accept, deal with, and even initiate change. Untangling this would take volumes, but this is what it really boils down to, no?

    2. We no longer live in a world of information scarcity. It used to be that college exposed people to a world of ideas and information previously hidden. Now, there is too much information. People come to college now already knowing more than an individual would know after an entire lifetime 100 years ago. It is difficult to find quality information because of the large quantity out there. It is less about quantity than about quality, and less about exposure to information than helping people develop strategies for finding quality information and eventually applying quality information to problem solving. So saying that more of this and that is necessary isn’t really the answer. What need is quality in higher education.

    3. There is only so much time an individual has. How much do we want our students in higher education to be dependent upon an instructor? Isn’t the goal to get students to be autonomous life long learners? Aren’t instructors supposed to be a “guide on the side” and not a “sage on the stage”? I don’t have time to work with 75 people a semester plus 43 advisees plus people from previous courses each individually. Teacher burn out is one of the biggest challenges in k-12. It threatens to be in higher education also. Again, it is more about quality than quantity.

    4. Writing is important. But, so are other means of communicating. We have cheap and relatively easy to use technology that helps us create sounds, sights, films, graphics, musical compositions, graphs, as well as oral and written media. Don’t we need students to be able to use all modes of communication wisely and well? This, of course, takes away from writing instruction.

    5. Students now are expected to do so many things outside of class. Work. Volunteer. Attend events. Study for 4 or 5 courses. Family. Health. Socialize. Perform in events. So on and so forth. How much course work can we expect students to do on top of everything else? Again, let’s shoot for quality rather than quantity.

  4. gretchenmckay says:

    I think I also want to shoot for learning, as well as quality. I really do want my students to learn – to grow. There are so many demands on their time. It’s hard to know how much is enough – how much is too much? And I don’t believe that more is just better. A 50 page paper is not going to wow me as much as a 20 page paper that is well-argued and researched. Likewise, I could assign 100 pages of textbook work that doesn’t really *say* anything. Or a 20 page article, about which the students have to think about and respond to an argument. Which is better in that scenario?

  5. Elizabeth van den Berg says:

    What I like to hear once they’ve graduated is that they’ve become creative problem solvers. I can spout information until I can’t speak anymore – but why? They can get it on the net. I want them to put things together, take them apart, and put them back together in a way that makes them work even better. This kind of comment from a former student makes me glow: “My boss at the second company I work for […] and I were shooting some presentations for a job coach, and when… we went on break, the two of them were talking about business ideas–management type of stuff.

    The coach was discussing employees, and said, “Employees are problems.” (And later went on to explain that he meant that they bring new challenges with them when a small business hires people.) And my boss commented right after, “Yeah, Joe, you’re a problem!”

    And then said, “Actually, I’ve got to say, Joe is more of a problem-solver than a problem. He tries to fix problems that arise before calling me for help.””

    This from a student who had difficulty finding out what he wanted to do when he graduated, initially “blamed” his liberal arts education for not guiding him carrer wise, then finally landing in a career path.

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