Students Fail Because Colleges Fail

In teaching on January 18, 2011 at 7:12 am

The Spring 2011 semester begins tomorrow, Wednesday, January 19. As I review my course syllabi one more time and ponder the weights to assign various assignments, I looked at today’s issue of the Chronicle-Faculty and read a blog post titled: New Book Lays Failure to Learn on Colleges’ Doorstep by David Glenn.

In that post, Glenn summarizes the findings in the recently released book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (University of Chicago Press). The book presents evidence, based on student scores on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, that faculty do not demand enough of students and thus students are ill-prepared by the time they graduate. One of the more disturbing, but not surprising conclusions include students self-report that they study 12 hours per week (the Carnegie study recommends that students study 2 hours for every hour in class, which is a minimum of 24 hours per week for a 12 unit semester load).

That conclusion matches what I’ve found when I’ve spoken with students, especially those who are struggling. Many do not know how many hours per week to study andBooks even more surprising, many do not know HOW to study.

During the past few semesters, I have included in the course syllabi of the undergraduate courses a recommendation that students study a certain number of hours per week and tips on how to study.  Another recent change has been to spend time discussing how to take tests-as faculty we assume that students know how to prepare for and have developed strategies to take tests. Many have not.

The book’s basis, results from the Collegiate Learning Assessment, does have the limitations that are noted in the article. However, one result should be that colleges should create a required course at the beginning of a students’ career that focuses on preparation for college-so that students know what is expected and thus can be better prepared. Another result is that faculty should not be afraid to challenge students and expect that they can do the work. Although that increases faculty workload and effort, it is necessary in order to graduate students who are truly prepared.


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