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Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

3.38  ·  Rating details ·  733 Ratings  ·  129 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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Feb 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Ryan Patrick
Mar 10, 2011 marked it as started-not-finished
Shelves: education
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Thore Husfeldt
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 21, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Mar 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 Kissling
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
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
Mark Oppenlander
Do students actually learn anything in college? That is the research question at the heart of Academically Adrift, which is presented as a book but is essentially a lengthy academic paper. Drs. Richard Arum and Josipa Roska test the hypothesis that, whether they learn anything vocationally significant in college, students who attend liberal arts schools come out with improved skills in the areas of critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication. Their findings suggest that this m ...more
Sep 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Mar 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Graeme Roberts
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Undergraduate students are getting a bum deal. Eminent educators like Derek Bok and Clark Kerr have written about this since at least the 1960's. This book adds some sociological research to validate the obvious, and wraps it all in endless pages of turgid, small-print academese. Under the heading "Reaching for the Moon", the authors conclude:
While limited learning in higher education is indeed cause for concern, it will probably not be easily or quickly remedied without some form of exogenous s
Tara Brabazon
Feb 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: higher-education
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
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 13, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
May 01, 2015 rated it liked it
378.198 ARU

1. This book is mainly statistical summary on CLA to evaluate college students learning(Collegiate Learning Assessment)- involving 3 parts: critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing -- most agreeable key skills to be taught in higher education. Courses focused on these skills are usually mandated by a college's "general education" or "distribution" requirement in the first 2 college years.p73
2. Contemporary collegiate culture.
p70 Students embraced a "credentialist-coll
Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Alice Lemon
Nov 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This book seemed well-done, as far as it went, but it wasn't really information that was new to me. It did seem odd that, while it acknowledged the sciences as a field where students tend to learn more, also focused strongly on the idea that colleges exist to teach "critical thinking" which can be measured in part by how many classes require 20-page papers. I don't think I ever took a class requiring a paper that long, but certainly virtually none of my science classes required papers at all: th ...more
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Backed by years of methodologically rigorous research, this book is a powerful exposé of the contemporary academic challenges facing today's college students. This book offers us not only an unnerving exposure to the fact that contemporary college students today aren't learning nearly as much as we thought they were. This book also offers us a disturbing revelation of how unequal the college education system is, despite recent policies that promote diversity and inclusion. Every current and pros ...more
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it
p. 124 Limited learning in the U.S. higher education system cannot be defined as a crisis because institutional and system-level organizational survival is not being threatened in any significant way. Parents—although somewhat disgruntled about increasing costs—want colleges to provide a safe environment where their children can mature, gain independence, and attain credentials that will help them be successful as adults. Students in general seek to enjoy the benefits of a full collegiate experi ...more
Shifting Phases
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful, thorough, and carefully-explained. This isn't a novel or self help book; it's a summary of an academic research project. The complaint by some reviewers that the prose is too complex is an eerie foreshadowing of the study's results.

Main findings:
- undergraduate learning is rarely adequately prioritized
- gains in reading, writing, and critical thinking skills are disturbingly low
- individual learning in higher education is characterized by persistent and/or growing inequality
- t
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Wait for it: the kicker comes in chapter 5. The average undergraduate doesn't learn much in college because literally no one has any reason to care about their learning per se. A degree gets you a comfortable white-collar job. Easy courses get you this degree with a minimum of effort. Less effort gives students plenty of time to socialize and live the college lifestyle. Happy students partaking richly of "collegiate life" keep parents happy too. Good professor evaluations come from easy courses. ...more
Oct 01, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jul 27, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a report of a large quantitative study of college learning based on a sample of 2,300 college students who answered survey questions about their college experience and twice took a problem-solving test of critical thinking, the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLE) - once at the beginning of the first year of college and again at the end of the second year of college. Generally, the authors of the study thought the results were depressing - few students seemed to have learned to become cr ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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