Sunday, November 06, 2011

Eight Books on the Effectiveness of Higher Education

At the New York Review of Books, Anthony Grafton reviews a raft of books discussing the enormous problems facing higher education today. An example from his discussion of Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa's Academically Adrift:
Their results are sobering. The Collegiate Learning Assessment reveals that some 45 percent of students in the sample had made effectively no progress in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing in their first two years. And a look at their academic experience helps to explain why. Students reported spending twelve hours a week, on average, studying—down from twenty-five hours per week in 1961 and twenty in 1981. Half the students in the sample had not taken a course that required more than twenty pages of writing in the previous semester, while a third had not even taken a course that required as much as forty pages a week of reading.
Grafton's analysis of the eight books under review is judicious but reaches few conclusions. This is only appropriate given the complex nature of the problems facing higher education, which resist easy analysis (let alone resolution).
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