Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses
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Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  460 ratings  ·  98 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 15th 2011 by University Of Chicago Press (first published December 28th 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Mike
After receiving a pretty lucrative grant from some folks I just can't name here, at my former gig at Pacific Tech, I recruited a large group of our best and brightest to help me work on some really exciting, cutting-edge science. We were building a laser--something that could revolutionize the industry. But these kids--bright as they may have been--needed motivation. They were a slack bunch, always goofing off. I needed to ride them hard, and I did. Without my sense of discipline, all bets would...more
Stuart
This is really a research article disguised as a book. That's the worst part of this study. Also the graphics are miserable and the quality of the writing is wooden. So much for the bad.

The good is that this work is perhaps the final brick in the wall in assessing the nature of contemporary college education. Chris Healy and I put one brick in that wall: college grades are ridiculously high in comparison to past grading standards. Babcock and Marks put in another brick: college students are stu...more
Ryan Patrick
Mar 12, 2011 Ryan Patrick marked it as started-not-finished
Shelves: education
This is one of those books that most everyone who has even thought about the issue could have essentially told you beforehand - people just aren't learning that much in college, especially the things that college is supposed to teach. When the NPR piece about this book made the rounds at my school, most of us just nodded and smiled (we already knew!). I remain less optimistic than the authors that anything can be done about the problem - if "the consumers of education" aren't really interested i...more
Paul
Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses is a detailed collection of statistics and cross references to additional research compiled by the authors. While the book contains 259 pages, the relevant information it presents is limited to the first 144 pages. The remainder is devoted to the bibliography and validation of the authors’ statistical analysis.

The book can be summarized by three basic themes:
Education is not equally available or of the same quality across socioeconomic li...more
Michael
Academically Adrift highlights an important problem with higher education: extremely low levels of learning, as measured in terms of critical thinking, complex problem solving, and communication.
The authors are careful to point out that this does not mean that all forms of learning are in decline—specifically, the tests used did not in any way measure subject-/domain-specific knowledge. However, the authors rightly assert that the particular forms of learning they concern themselves with (critic...more
David
This is a book that should be read by every college professor, dean, provost, and president. Far too many of our colleges are failing in their mission to educate undergraduates. The authors suggest one crude recommendation which they reiterate ad nauseum: have students read at least 40 pages a week per class and have them write over twenty pages in at least one class. This makes sense. Apparently, students are able to graduate from college without doing much studying, reading or writing. One of...more
Elizabeth Arveda
I looked at some of the other GoodReads reviews after I finished this book, and I have to agree with those who said the writing style is wooden and not engaging. But I was interested enough in the topic and the findings to read the whole thing fairly quickly -- and during finals week. It was fascinating to read this while grading final projects in my visual communication class; the authors' findings about college students match much of what my students have to say about themselves.

I had assigne...more
Candy Wood
Now I see why so many news stories following the publication of this book picked up on the minimum requirement for college students of at least forty pages of reading a week and twenty pages of writing a semester: the authors repeat that formula many times, and stress how students who have met these requirements perform better in “tasks—such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment—that require skills in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing.” While their data support this assertion, wh...more
Mark
Arum and Roksa make good points in their book, Academically Adrift. For many decades, America has been riding on its academic (and other)laurels, and it is books like this that remind us a citizens that it is time for change. Arum and Roksa use statistical studies to present numbers that are unfortunately too close to reality. Among other points that they make is that college may not be for everyone, and that both teachers and students are not fulfilling their contractual duties to each other. O...more
Mary
I'm not quite sure where I weigh in on this polemic against the university system. As an economics-minded individual, much evidence I find compelling, but some of it is inconsistent. As a rhetorician, some of the arguments are well-fashioned, qualified and hesitant, but some of them are door-bashing fear-mongering. As an overachieving hardliner, I definitely rally that students should be working harder, studying longer and not mucking about trapped in ineffective administrative policies that inc...more
Thore Husfeldt
This is a splendid, dry, detailed, and frustrating little book, potentially interesting to most people involved in higher education: teachers, administrators, deans, student politicians, etc.

I’ve seen quite a few test of learning outcomes administered to large populations of students, but what makes this one interesting is the focus on the broad, general skill sets of liberal education: critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing. These are evaluated by a new test called the Collegiate Lea...more
Megan
May 08, 2011 Megan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: ed
I jumped into this book thinking it was going to be the most important book on education that I'd read this year. I was sorely disappointed. Arum bemoans the decline of "critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication" so much it becomes the mantra of the book. And yet, the book itself is as poorly written as any other dense, self-important piece of academese that I've ever had the irritation to read. Here's a sample sentence: "Full-time faculty in resource-poor institutions like...more
Marks54
This is a book in the broader literature presenting research on the state of undergraduate education. This volume attracted much attention and raises good issues. It is based on a statistical analysis of the Collegiate Learning Assessment survey results. Two of the most notable conclusions from the study are that students are not spending much time studying and that they are not learning that much, presumably from the lack of time and focus and also due to distractions from extra curricular acti...more
Tara Brabazon
Five stars do not seem enough reward for this book. Every university academic and every student should read it. The writers demonstrate how and why 'limited learning' takes places in our courses and classrooms. Their arguments are both horrifying and inspiring. If we think differently and behave differently, then we can make a difference. This book has changed how I think about the world.
Lauren
I read this because I've heard so much hype about it, and felt it was one of those books I should have read ages ago. It's good. It summarizes a lot of issues facing higher ed. I found the literature reviews most interesting, and found it interesting at a meta level, the assumptions the authors brought to the discussion. Worth reading if you work in higher education.
Murat Aydogdu
Ouch!
The book makes a strong case that the undergraduate education is in a bad state. The authors represent the findings of their study based on a few thousand students' responses.
The book is a bit dry to read but the findings are often shocking.
Recommended to anyone with an interest in this subject.
Margaret Heller
Students are going to college for the wrong reasons, don't know what to expect, often get poor guidance, and faculty don't ask enough of them. We sort of knew this already, but now math proves it.
Matt Gnagey
I agree wholeheartedly that limited learning is an issue on college campuses. However, I disagree completely with the author's premise that standardized testing will be useful at this level. This book is interesting when it focuses on changes that have occurred in college such as the decreased percentage of college employees who are faculty, and the decreased number of hours students spend studying, but the regression analysis is extremely weak, the number of colleges included is small, and ther...more
Michael Burnam-fink
The most dangerous book of the year. Arum and Roksa present a controversial thesis: that college is not teaching students critical reasoning and writing skills, and back it up in-depth research based on a survey of 2200+ students across 24 institutions, and results on the CLA standardized test.

As a recent college graduate and current PhD student, "Academically Adrift" matches my experiences to a T. While some students are capable of benefiting from college, many students (45% by the authors numb...more
Bonnie Irwin
One of a long line of books about the "crisis" in higher education, Academically Adrift offers support for what we have known for a long time, that the success of higher education and student learning in particular, is dependent upon all the players: faculty, staff, and administrators; students and parents; regulatory agencies and the government. If it is failing, we are all failing. While things are not as bad as the authors claim, they do present some serious concerns. Students who start colle...more
Holly
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2011-reads
Notes: Most students are not taking courses that require more than 20 pages of writing over the semester nor more than 40 pages of reading per week.

Students concentrating in science and math reported studying on average 14.7 hours per week; humanities/social sciences: 12.5 hours per week; business: 9.6 hours; education and social work: 10.6; communications: 10.5 hours.

Students are "choosing courses to minimize short-term investments of individual commitment required to obtain high course marks -...more
Blyden
The central thesis here is that many college students are not learning much academically from their college experience which, for those of us in higher education, should not be a surprise. The authors offer a variety of reasons for this, focusing heavily on student culture. College students, they argue, are busy with a variety of other actitivities, including work, cultural experiences, and especially socialization. They spend, on average, only about 16% of their time on coursework. Neither facu...more
David
Strongly empirical, though not stylistically pleasurable to read. Main conclusion is that 45% of college students across the
board fail to show significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing in their first two years, and other
studies suggest that the final two years probably fare no better. There are several reviews available directed at the methodology
but as far as I can tell they don't materially alter the main (glass is half empty) conclusion.

Miscellaneous nuggets:

-...more
Walt
This book has received a lot of attention because it partially tracks a cohort advancing through college. The basic methodology appears to be that the author had a group of kids entering college complete the traditional ACT and the CLA (Collegiate Learning Exam). Then, followed up with the students later in their academic career with a questionnaire probing a variety of academic success measures.

Arum faults not only students, but also teachers and administrators for leaving students to go throu...more
Brandon
Academically Adrift takes an interesting, critical look at the higher education system in the United States. Through extensive research and examination, the authors argue that there simply is not enough time, thought and effort being put into the academic side of higher education. In fact, all players in the higher education arena seem to have other priorities besides actually creating an environment of academic rigor. This paragraph near the conclusion of the book really summarizes the entire b...more
Mike
Warning: reads like a textbook. Undergraduate education is a failing the majority of students, yet stakeholders all feel that they are getting what they need from Colleges and Universities. Employers need workers who are capable of critical thinking/reasoning and have the writing ability to express themselves clearly. The authors break out all the different factors that contribute to student success - the most important being faculty expectations for students. Classes that require 40+ pages of r...more
Kili
A common theme in DC is the decline in US universities. We are no longer the world leader. I'm not sure we ever were in terms of undergraduate studies - graduate studies, I think we still lead - but it is still a common theme. This book attempts to look at this objectively and concretely.

This book reads like an extended research paper. The author bases his analysis on the Collegiate Learning Assessment Longitudinal Study (CLA), which included a test that was administered to 2,362 Freshman studen...more
Donna
When I started reading this, I went into a depression. As a college professor, I knew the things Arum & Roksa were talking about first-hand - the underpreparedness of students, the fact that faculty are pulled out of the classroom so much and expected to do everything but teach, and the lack of real data about what we are actually doing in higher education. In fact, after the first chapter I wanted to hide this book somewhere out of sight. (You know how some people do scary books.)

But the bo...more
Christina
This was an interesting--and depressing--book about how today's college students are not improving their critical thinking skills during their four years in college. The first few chapters introduce the problem and describe relevant past research. The focus of the book is to report and discuss data from a study the authors conducted on factors related to gains in critical thinking during the first two years of college.

The main point is that most students' critical thinking skills do not improve....more
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