Friday, October 7, 2011
A new study reveals that while access to education is increasing, students are not learning what they need. In Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Josipa Roksa and Richard Arum claim that many college students do not measurably improve in the areas of complex reasoning, critical thinking, and written communication. One of the problems is that students don't study enough. While colleges recommend 25 hours of studying a week, students average only half that amount of time. (When I went to college, it was three hours of study per credit hour.) Students are coming to college unprepared to work hard, and they choose courses with the lowest amount of required reading and writing. Moreover, many professors come to class with low expectations of students and require little work of their students. The book concludes that parents, faculty, and administrators must not cede academic rigor to parties and other activities that subtract from student's study time.
Those of us who teach law school see these problems in our entering students. Many of our students cannot write, and they are versed in regurgitation rather than complex thinking and critical reasoning. While I agree that poor study habits are part of the problem, I believe the problem is more fundamental. Colleges are not teaching critical thinking and written communication. I have had many legal writing students come to me and say that they didn't write a single paper in college or only one or two. Colleges need to rethink what they are teaching in each individual class room. Of course, this is also true of us at law schools.