Does College Make You Smarter?

imagesWe should be careful about reaching definitive conclusions on the quality of undergraduate education from a study that uses a single outcome measure, the Collegiate Learning Assessment. Our diverse higher education marketplace claims to produce a wide range of outcomes which in fairness, require multiple forms of assessment. That said, «Academically Adrift» is in fact, a story about the slow pace of curricular change, a story about the status of teaching in higher education and ultimately a story about today’s college student and there is a lot to this story.

On the curriculum front, there has been a good deal of change in general education, the term for a university’s core curriculum, especially over the last decade. But this work is painfully slow, conceived with little engagement of the public and complicated by competing demands from the disciplines, each wanting more and more space in a fixed pie (roughly 120 credit hours). As a result, curriculum reform, often means adding new information and topics, but subtracting little. Over time, it is difficult for faculty or students to agree about what is important. It is even harder to make connections across the curriculum and, therefore, difficult to see themes that cut across the disciplines in ways that line up with what students see and experience day-to-day. So there is a relevance problem as well as a priorities problem.

A bigger challenge is the nature of teaching in the academy. Today’s student lives in a world of hyper-connectivity and information exchange. They receive their information in five-minute episodes and it comes in many modalities — sound, text, video. The typical college classroom is a stand and deliver environment that does not foster engagement, interaction or exchange.

We might wish today’s student could tolerate this dated approach to instruction. But even if they could, the lives many lead do not conform to our conception of the traditional student. Setting aside the most selective schools and colleges, many fewer students are full-time. Many more are financially independent, work while attending school and have competing responsibilities at home. This is just to suggest that we are working increasingly with students who face competing demands for their time and attention.

I am actually encouraged by the growing attention by the higher education community to persistence and on-time graduation in undergraduate education. There is no way to meet new policy goals for college attainment if we don’t. Giving students more advice and support and actually explaining to them what we expect them to do would go a long way toward improving student learning outcomes.

But unless or until we warm up to the possibility that curriculum and instruction in higher education need to adapt to a changing world, to new frontiers of content and especially to what we now know about how people learn, I doubt we will see big changes in engagement or learning. I am expecting the higher education community to take these findings and run with them, recognizing that public and private support for a system that has been the envy of the world depends on taking student learning more seriously.

New York Times

Suscribirse a comentarios Respuestas cerradas, se permiten trackback. |

Comentarios cerrados.

Este sitio web utiliza cookies para que usted tenga la mejor experiencia de usuario. Si continúa navegando está dando su consentimiento para la aceptación de las mencionadas cookies y la aceptación de nuestra política de cookies, pinche el enlace para mayor información.plugin cookies

Aviso de cookies