Jan 262011
Authors: Sarah Banes

For Rich Feller, a professor in the School of Education at CSU, the blame must be placed on students for what has been referred to as a substantial lack of learning during their first two years in college.

“When students attend college only to get their ticket punched, seek low expectation classes or don’t commit to outside class work, they tell you it’s a bad experience,” said Feller in an e-mail to the Collegian.

These statements come in light of a recently released study showing that almost half of the nation’s undergraduate college students demonstrate little gain in knowledge during their first two years of college.

The authors of this study, Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia, claim that the fault is largely that of the students who don’t study and take easy courses.

The study tracked 2,322 students from 24 U.S. colleges and universities from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009.

The students in the study were asked to take a standardized test in the fall of their first year and then again in the spring of their sophomore year.

Overall, the students’ scores did not significantly improve. After the full four years, 36 percent of students did not show any improvement, compared with 45 percent of students who did after two years.

The study found that students who studied alone and attended more selective schools in traditional arts and sciences majors had greater learning gains, while students in the Greek system and those who studied with peers had decreased rates of learning.

Many students showed no significant improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.

However, some CSU students disagree with these results.

“I think I actually learned a lot from the gen-ed classes I took,” said Jim Taggart, a senior English major. “They were subjects that I had never really seen before.”

Arum and Roska found that students often learned more when asked to do more, and the main problem is that students just aren’t pushed very much their first two years of college.

The authors hope, for that reason, that their data will encourage colleges and universities to make the appropriate adjustments to improve teaching and learning.

“Do faculty need to find more engaging, creative ways to teach and use digitized learning? Yes, but not much happens without a student ready to learn,” Feller said.

Staff writer Sarah Banes can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Out this week

*new study published in “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” has shown that nearly half the students in the nation haven’t had a marked improvement in learning after the first two years of college.

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