College students donâ€™t know much. A recent study shows that students study 50 percent less than they did a few decades ago.
Students were shown to study about 14 hours per week in 2003, down from 24 hours a week in 1961.
The study was produced by Richard Arum, a professor of sociology at New York University and Josipa Roksa, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia in their recently published book, â€œAcademically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.â€
â€œWith a large sample of more than 2,300 students [on 29 campuses], we observe no statistically significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills for at least 45 percent of the students in our study,â€ the authors reported.
Data also showed that 32 percent of students donâ€™t take courses with more than 40 pages of reading assigned a week, and 50 percent donâ€™t take courses that require more than 20 pages of writing a semester.
The authors say that students lack rigor.
â€œAlthough growing proportions of high school graduates are entering higher education, many are not prepared for college-level work,â€ they wrote, â€œand many others have no clear plan for the future.â€
The authors collected their data through student surveys, transcripts and the Collegiate Learning Assessment.
Heather Landers, director of Learning Programs at The Institute for Learning and Teaching, said though the authorâ€™s findings may seem discouraging, she is hesitant to jump to conclusions.
â€œTests like the CLA assess learning in general,â€ she said. â€œThe results donâ€™t necessarily represent how students are doing in their specific course of study.â€
Over the years, Landers has seen specific reoccurring habits among students, like only memorizing material to pass tests instead of really learning it, she said that making generalizations about students is an easy way out of really understanding studentâ€™s attitude and progress in college.
Landers believes there are other factors that affect learning and attitudes among college students.
â€œThere are huge changes in what college students have to do outside of school,â€ she said.
For instance, she noted there are many more adult learners compared to the 1960s and â€˜70s. Many are working a full-time job and raising children while trying to obtain a degree. Also, more people are able to attend college by way of grants and scholarships that were not available 30 years ago. College isnâ€™t just for the select few that can afford it anymore.
In addition to a more diverse student community, something even more important may be contributing to mixed learning attitudes and compromised study habits.
â€œWith technological changes, globalization and the you-can-be-anything-you-want outlook on life, choosing a major and a career goal can be paralyzing,â€ she said. â€œIf you donâ€™t have a goal, itâ€™s hard to get motivated.â€
Modes of learning are different than they were 30 years ago.
â€œThereâ€™s a sort of romance about the past,â€ Landers said. â€œThere was a lecture, maybe some notes on the board. There were no multi-media presentations or computers to easily find information. Students really had to do a lot of learning on their own.â€
Josh Hall, a senior history major said he studies about five or six hours a week.
â€œStudents donâ€™t really study anymore,â€ he said. â€œWe have the Internet. Instead of reading the text, we can find things out online pretty quick.â€
It took Hall a few years to decide on a career goal. Heâ€™s hoping to go into federal law enforcement, specifically the Secret Service, to follow in the path of other family members.
â€œI am here to learn,â€ he said. â€œSometimes I just donâ€™t do a lot of studying out of the classroom.â€
Sarah Fry, a social work major who graduated from CSU in December, took a different approach to learning.
â€œI studied usually around 15 hours a week for 12-16 credit hours,â€ she said. â€œSome concepts were common sense to me, but I already had experience in the social work field.â€
Most of Fryâ€™s classes involved lots of reading and writing and self-directed work.
â€œI felt things needed to be done right, so I made sure they were to keep my grades,â€ she said. â€œI would also have to say that I feel study habits tend to differ on who is paying for college. I funded my own education, so I wasnâ€™t going to waste my time or money not doing my best.â€
Staff writer Emily Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breaking down the statistics
of students do not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning during the first two years of college.
of students do not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning over four years of college.
students spend five hours or less a week studying alone; the average for all students was under 9 hours.
Less than one-half of seniors complete more than 20 pages of writing for a course per semester
Students majoring in traditional liberal-arts fields demonstrate significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.
Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications have the lowest measurable gains