Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thoughts on "Academically Adrift"

Article: Academically Adrift
by: Scott Jaschik
Published: Inside Higher Ed 1/18/11

"If the purpose of a college education is for students to learn, academe is failing."

"The main culprit for lack of academic progress of students, according to the authors, is a lack of rigor."

" They review data from student surveys to show, for example, that 32 percent of students each semester do not take any courses with more than 40 pages of reading assigned a week, and that half don't take a single course in which they must write more than 20 pages over the course of a semester. Further, the authors note that students spend, on average, only about 12-14 hours a week studying, and that much of this time is studying in groups."

"Students who study by themselves for more hours each week gain more knowledge -- while those who spend more time studying in peer groups see diminishing gains."

This cements my intention and plan in our homeschooling, to teach my sons to be good readers, to be able to handle reading and consuming a decent volume of written text every day, and to learn how to study independently.

Hat Tip: A post by MK on the hs2coll (homeschool to college) YahooGroup.


Xa Lynn said...

Amen. I've looked at some of my college prof husband's students' exams. They cannot write coherently (or spell, for that matter), and I suspect many of them cannot read efficiently enough to cover the assigned material.

Xa Lynn

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I am most interested in the results regarding studying alone vs. peer group study. I have extensive experience with higher education, and I have always thought that this emphasis on peer group study was a race to the lowest common denominator. In some fields, I think it is a response to lack of discipline in the young college students themselves.

For example, even in the '90's, when I was a lab TA in biology, we were encouraged to help undergraduates form study groups because we knew that their individual study was not very effective, if they did it at all. Many came to a difficult discipline like biology with the idea that they would absorb the material like they did in high school, just by being there--sort of. My observation of how these groups worked was that they would become hopelessly bogged down because all their time would be spent trying to bring a glimmer of understanding to the least intelligent or diligent members. I thought it was a waste of time for students who had a good chance of doing well, a cost I was not willing to encourage. So I quietly stopped offering "peer group" study sessions.

In some fields, it seems that peer group study sessions are not offered for practical reasons at all, but have simply become part of an ideology for the field. This is true in certain so-called disciplines within colleges of Education, in which post-modernist ideology has overtaken and almost completely subsumed any real attempt to teach students to think for themselves. Post-modernism itself has an anti-epistemology that essentially states that knowledge is impossible anyway, so that I find myself confused about the point of entire "fields of study." In these departments, I think the peer study group is more of an instrument for indoctrination in which the unwary individual is bullied into groupthink.
This sounds harsh, I know, but it is what it is, and as my teenaged BIL said in August of each year of the early 1980'sm "it's a harsh reality trip, man."

ChristineMM said...

Thanks for commenting Xa Lynn & Elisheva.

Elisheva, I just finished reading the book that has gotten buzz How to Be a High School Superstar (wonder what you'd think of that)...anyhow he pushes in there studying in a group. His explanation is that if people have to teach it they really learn it. I would argue that the discrepancy is that if you were studying with a peer group and you were the one preparing to teach it to everyone else you would be helped. But to those who sit and listen to the re-teaching of it by a peer, well maybe their time is being wasted.

I recall studying in groups in high school and found it a social experience and rarely helpful FOR ME. I only found it useful when I didn't understand something and a peer explained it to me. I did not have any help memorizing stuff by peer studying.

Perhaps also the difference is in different learning styles among people. If a person learns well by listening to others talk about it maybe peer studying with discussion is helpful for THEM but if you are a person who learns strongly by re-reading written text or by re-writing out notes then peer studying could never help, right?