Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

University of Chicago Press
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In spite of soaring tuition costs, more and more students go to college every year. A bachelor’s degree is now required for entry into a growing number of professions. And some parents begin planning for the expense of sending their kids to college when they’re born. Almost everyone strives to go, but almost no one asks the fundamental question posed by Academically Adrift: are undergraduates really learning anything once they get there?

For a large proportion of students, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s answer to that question is a definitive no. Their extensive research draws on survey responses, transcript data, and, for the first time, the state-of-the-art Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test administered to students in their first semester and then again at the end of their second year. According to their analysis of more than 2,300 undergraduates at twenty-four institutions, 45 percent of these students demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills—including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing—during their first two years of college. As troubling as their findings are, Arum and Roksa argue that for many faculty and administrators they will come as no surprise—instead, they are the expected result of a student body distracted by socializing or working and an institutional culture that puts undergraduate learning close to the bottom of the priority list.

Academically Adrift
holds sobering lessons for students, faculty, administrators, policy makers, and parents—all of whom are implicated in promoting or at least ignoring contemporary campus culture. Higher education faces crises on a number of fronts, but Arum and Roksa’s report that colleges are failing at their most basic mission will demand the attention of us all.
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About the author

Richard Arum is professor in the Department of Sociology with a joint appointment in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. He is also director of the Education Research Program of the Social Science Research Council and the author of Judging School Discipline: The Crisis of Moral Authority in American Schools. Josipa Roksa is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jan 15, 2011
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780226028576
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / General
Education / Higher
Education / Testing & Measurement
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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For Freshman Orientation or Critical Thinking courses as well as a supplementary text for use in any subject-matter at any educational level. This concise, effective guide is designed to help students learn to think critically in any subject-matter.

Learning to Think Things Through presents a combination of instruction and exercises that shows the reader how to become active learners rather than passive recipients of information, use critical thinking to more fully appreciate the power of the discipline they are studying, to see its connections to other fields and to their day-to-day lives, and to maintain an overview of the field so they can see the parts in terms of the whole. The model of critical thinking (used throughout the book) is in terms of the elements of reasoning, standards, and critical thinking processes. This model is well-suited to thinking through any problem or question. The 4th edition reflects streamlined writing, with changes and substantial edits on virtually every page.

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Decoding the Disciplines is a widely-used and proven methodology that prompts teachers to identify the bottlenecks – the places where students get stuck – that impede learners’ paths to expert thinking in a discipline. The process is based on recognizing the gap between novice learning and expert thinking, and uncovering tacit knowledge that may not be made manifest in teaching.

Through “decoding”, implicit expert knowledge can be turned into explicit mental tasks, and made available to students. This book presents a seven-step process for uncovering bottlenecks and determining the most effective way to enable students to surmount them.

The authors explain how to apply the seven steps of Decoding the Disciplines – how to identify bottlenecks, unpack the critical thinking of experts, teach students how to do this kind of thinking, and how to evaluate the degree to which students have learned to do it. They provide in-depth descriptions of each step and, at the end of each chapter, at least one exercise the reader can do on his or her own. Because the decoding process works well with groups, they also provide exercises for leading groups through the process, making available to informal groups as well as groups led by professional developers, the tools to transform their understanding of teaching and learning by getting the student view that they refer to as “the bottleneck perspective”.

Because it focuses on the mental moves that underlie the cognitive competencies we want students to develop, spelling out what critical thinking consists of for any field, the methodology helps teachers to get beyond focus on content delivery and transmission and provides criteria to select from the bewildering array of teaching tools the methods most appropriate to what they are teaching.

This is a book for faculty who want their students to develop disciplinary forms of reasoning, and are moreover interested in a methodology with the potential to transform and reinvigorate their teaching. It is particularly suitable for use in communities of practice, and should be indispensable for any one engaged in cross-disciplinary teaching, as it enables co-teachers to surface each other’s tacit knowledge and disciplinary assumptions.
For two decades, colleges and universities have regularly offered, and in some cases required, courses in thinking skills. Such courses generally have focused on training students in the basics of informal and formal logic, the assumption being that good thinking is logical thinking, and that instruction in critical or “good” thinking consequently should emphasize logical procedures. This “logistic” assumption is clearly reflected in both critical thinking textbooks as well as in the professional literature.

Recently, however, the epistemic and pedagogical identification of critical thinking and logical thinking has been questioned by educators from a wide diversity of disciplines. Many of these critics argue that a richer, more comprehensive model of thinking itself is needed, one that acknowledges the importance of traditionally downplayed faculties such as empathy, imagination, and insight. Others contend that thinking skills theory and pedagogy must take into consideration the contextual and sometimes political influences upon not just content but also styles of thinking. finally still other critics of the conventional model of critical thinking argue that recent research in feminist studies sheds a great deal of light upon the directions in which critical thinking instruction should go.

The fourteen essays in this anthology all illustrate this new way of thinking about critical thinking. Each of them is critical of the received model, and each of them argues for one that goes beyond the conventional reduction of thinking skills to logical expertise. But each approaches the issue from a different angle, thereby providing the reader with a diversity of perspectives and accents.

Re-Thinking Reason is an invaluable resource tool, research guide, and supplemental textbook, for educators across the disciplines who are concerned with incorporating thinking skills instruction in their classes.
Few books have ever made their presence felt on college campuses—and newspaper opinion pages—as quickly and thoroughly as Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s 2011 landmark study of undergraduates’ learning, socialization, and study habits, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. From the moment it was published, one thing was clear: no university could afford to ignore its well-documented and disturbing findings about the failings of undergraduate education. Now Arum and Roksa are back, and their new book follows the same cohort of undergraduates through the rest of their college careers and out into the working world. Built on interviews and detailed surveys of almost a thousand recent college graduates from a diverse range of colleges and universities, Aspiring Adults Adrift reveals a generation facing a difficult transition to adulthood. Recent graduates report trouble finding decent jobs and developing stable romantic relationships, as well as assuming civic and financial responsibility—yet at the same time, they remain surprisingly hopeful and upbeat about their prospects. Analyzing these findings in light of students’ performance on standardized tests of general collegiate skills, selectivity of institutions attended, and choice of major, Arum and Roksa not only map out the current state of a generation too often adrift, but enable us to examine the relationship between college experiences and tentative transitions to adulthood. Sure to be widely discussed, Aspiring Adults Adrift will compel us once again to re-examine the aims, approaches, and achievements of higher education.
With four simple truths as his framework, Charles Murray, the bestselling coauthor of The Bell Curve, sweeps away the hypocrisy, wishful thinking, and upside-down priorities that grip America’s educational establishment.

Ability varies. Children differ in their ability to learn academic material. Doing our best for every child requires, above all else, that we embrace that simplest of truths. America’s educational system does its best to ignore it.

Half of the children are below average. Many children cannot learn more than rudimentary reading and math. Real Education reviews what we know about the limits of what schools can do and the results of four decades of policies that require schools to divert huge resources to unattainable goals.

Too many people are going to college. Almost everyone should get training beyond high school, but the number of students who want, need, or can profit from four years of residential education at the college level is a fraction of the number of young people who are struggling to get a degree. We have set up a standard known as the BA, stripped it of its traditional content, and made it an artificial job qualification. Then we stigmatize everyone who doesn’t get one. For most of America’s young people, today’s college system is a punishing anachronism.

America’s future depends on how we educate the academically gifted. An elite already runs the country, whether we like it or not. Since everything we watch, hear, and read is produced by that elite, and since every business and government department is run by that elite, it is time to start thinking about the kind of education needed by the young people who will run the country. The task is not to give them more advanced technical training, but to give them an education that will make them into wiser adults; not to pamper them, but to hold their feet to the fire.

The good news is that change is not only possible but already happening. Real Education describes the technological and economic trends that are creating options for parents who want the right education for their children, teachers who want to be free to teach again, and young people who want to find something they love doing and learn how to do it well. These are the people for whom Real Education was written. It is they, not the politicians or the educational establishment, who will bring American schools back to reality.

Twenty-four years ago, Charles Murray’s Losing Ground changed the way the nation thought about welfare. Real Education is about to do the same thing for America’s schools.
The United States has long been a model for accessible, affordable education, as exemplified by the country's public universities. And yet less than 60 percent of the students entering American universities today are graduating. Why is this happening, and what can be done? Crossing the Finish Line provides the most detailed exploration ever of college completion at America's public universities. This groundbreaking book sheds light on such serious issues as dropout rates linked to race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Probing graduation rates at twenty-one flagship public universities and four statewide systems of public higher education, the authors focus on the progress of students in the entering class of 1999--from entry to graduation, transfer, or withdrawal. They examine the effects of parental education, family income, race and gender, high school grades, test scores, financial aid, and characteristics of universities attended (especially their selectivity). The conclusions are compelling: minority students and students from poor families have markedly lower graduation rates--and take longer to earn degrees--even when other variables are taken into account. Noting the strong performance of transfer students and the effects of financial constraints on student retention, the authors call for improved transfer and financial aid policies, and suggest ways of improving the sorting processes that match students to institutions.


An outstanding combination of evidence and analysis, Crossing the Finish Line should be read by everyone who cares about the nation's higher education system.

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