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How College Works

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  85 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Constrained by shrinking budgets, can colleges do more to improve the quality of education? And can students get more out of college without paying higher tuition? Daniel Chambliss and Christopher Takacs conclude that the limited resources of colleges and students need not diminish the undergraduate experience. How College Works reveals the surprisingly decisive role that ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published February 17th 2014 by Harvard University Press
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Jul 22, 2014 Mishehu rated it did not like it
This is quite possibly the most banal piece of social science/sociology of higher ed/ed theory ever conceived. It's 178 pages of truisms and, perhaps, an interesting insight or 2 (max) along the way. I credit the authors for their earnestness -- they really do think they're on to something and that theirs is a critique with transformative potential. But good golly, Molly, could theirs be a more Polly-Anna-ishly obvious critique? And could they not have ventured just one bold new proposal? No ...more
Jun 26, 2014 Chuck rated it really liked it
Short and easy to read, this is the definitive guide to learning how students experience small liberal arts colleges. Written about Hamilton College in New York, using research funded by the Mellon Foundation, this book is certainly a useful read for anybody that cares about small liberal arts colleges.

The authors clearly state that students are their basic unit of analysis, which distinguishes it from many books about higher education. Books about liberal arts colleges tend to be written by col
Jan 19, 2016 Joe rated it really liked it
The usual measures of colleges involve programs, courses, and faculty. Chamblis argues that these leave out the crucial dimension of student experience. When we look at college from the perspective of students, Chamblis suggests, the questions become: What do most students get from those cool programs and courses? How many of those stellar faculty do they actually study with?

When looked at from the perspective of students, Chamblis argues, the key issue in college is relationships: Who are my fr
Greta Marlow
Oct 28, 2014 Greta Marlow rated it liked it
There were a few things in this book I found valuable for my work in higher education, but most of the observations were nothing new to me. The main thing I found disappointing was that they didn't flesh out their main conclusion - that the key to success is to put the "right" people together. That includes having the "right" teachers in freshman-level classes. Although they danced around the edges of it, the authors didn't say HOW to identify who the right teachers are. I guess that will come ...more
Dec 26, 2014 Melissa rated it liked it
Some good ideas, but not an overwhelming amount of unique content. I felt like the later chapters were repetitive of previous ideas and a little self-congratulatory.
Sep 01, 2014 Patrik rated it it was amazing
This is a thought-provoking book and I liked it very much. It attempts to determine what we (faculty, administrators, students) can do to make the college experience better for students. This book, as opposed to most books on learning that I read, did not focus on pedagogy but rather on the entire experience. Chambliss argues, based on student and alumni surveys, that learning takes place not only in the classroom; in fact, the most important outcomes of college is based on face-to-face ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Julie rated it liked it
Every summer, I try to read at least one book that's recently come out regarding my chosen profession of higher education. Often, they are scathing criticisms of what is wrong with higher ed. This one, refreshingly, does not fall into that category. Based on research done at Hamilton College, a place very similar to Gettysburg College, the authors conclude something that most student affairs people have known all along-- students need friends to thrive; the social part of college is essential to ...more
Amanda Himes
Aug 18, 2016 Amanda Himes rated it liked it
"The fundamental problem in American higher education is no longer the availability of content, but rather the availability of motivation." Chambliss and Takacs make the case, based on a decade of research at Hamilton College, that what students need to succeed in college is 2-3 good friends and 1-2 great professors, and that without both these sufficient and necessary elements, they will leave unsatisfied and perhaps un-degreed. When students feel that their work matters to someone important, ...more
Oct 15, 2015 Cassandra rated it it was ok
I'm reading this for a book club, but so far I find it pretty long-winded. There is a lot of information that seems pretty obvious without too much rigorous analysis (discourse or coding or otherwise, yet).

My boyfriend explained it best:

Me: I don't like this book.
Boyfriend: What's it about?
Me: [reads the back jacket cover of the book] "human interactions remain central to most students' college experience[s]."
Boyfriend: Yeah, partying. You could just look at their Facebook pages.


James Lang
Jan 31, 2015 James Lang rated it really liked it
Fascinating account of a long-term study of a cohort of college students throughout their college years and up to ten years beyond. The results suggest that courses and formal learning experiences are much less important and memorable than individual relationships that students form--with each other, with faculty, and with other members of the college community. The implications of this are surprising and interesting, and deserve to be considered by everyone who works or lives in a college ...more
This book is ideal for: high schoolers freaking out about college and wanting to visualize the experience a bit more, and crotchety old professors who actually have no idea what college is like anymore and want to see what us "ne'er-do-wells" are doing to survive higher education.

This book is NOT ideal for: college students and/or recent college grads like myself who could recite these "groundbreaking" theories in our sleep. To me this book was a complete waste of time. One more to my GR Challen
May 16, 2014 Ed rated it really liked it
This is an excellent read for any higher ed professional, especially those who have a lot of contact with first and second year students. It's particularly useful for those of us who work at small private colleges, as the authors are both affiliated with a similar institution (Hamilton College), which is the basis for their research and conclusions.
Ann Nicgorski
Jan 04, 2016 Ann Nicgorski rated it liked it
Some good insights (e.g. assessment) but no real surprises for liberal arts college faculty. Very repetitive; surprised that the role of social media was not considered as a significant part of student experience.
Nina Chachu
Apr 15, 2016 Nina Chachu rated it really liked it
Official read for the Ashesi retreat in May 2016. An easy read, all about a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. With lessons for all of us.
Jan 04, 2015 Tamara rated it liked it
Interesting to read from the perspective of my alma mater written by a f0rmer professor. Gave me things to think about for some of the projects we are working on.
Apr 24, 2015 Jorjejaj rated it it was amazing
Excellent and clear view of college through the student's eyes. All college administrators should read this book.

(Coincidentally my first Kindle book completed - way late to the dance).
Landon rated it really liked it
Jun 30, 2014
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