Sunday, May 19, 2013
There's both good and bad news according to a new study that surveys the reading habits of college students. The study, called "Reading Habits of College Students in the United States," reports that students are doing more reading than commonly thought. The bad news is that 40% of that reading is done on social media sites and often it occurs during class. The Chronicle of Higher Ed (subscription required) spoke with the author SuHua Huang, an assistant professor of reading education at Midwestern State University in Texas, about the findings. In composing the study, Professor Huang and her colleagues
. . . asked 1,265 students across disciplinary areas at a public liberal-arts university in the Southwest to fill out surveys describing how much time they spent each week engaging in things like academic reading, extracurricular reading, browsing the Internet, working, sleeping, and socializing. Students selected the time span that best quantified each activity, with the range starting at zero, increasing to one to four hours, and proceeding in five-hour increments to 36 to 40 hours.
The quantitative data revealed that students spent nearly 21 hours reading each week: 8.9 hours on the Internet, 7.7 hours on academic reading, and 4.2 hours on extracurricular reading, including the news, graphic novels, and nonacademic books.
The researchers found that college students described textbook reading as "tedious" and that many didn't do the assigned reading if they didn't think it would be on the exam. With respect to their classroom behaviors, the researchers found that students appeared "obsessed" with social media and were often so distracted by their devices that they asked the teacher to repeat instructions for assignments even though they'd already been explained several times.
[Professor Huang's] observations revealed that students seemed to have difficulty putting away their Internet-capable cellphones during class, often keeping them on their laps or in their hands. Some students explained that they needed to do so to keep from missing a message from family members or friends or to pick up extra hours at their jobs.
Cellphone usage in class became so ubiquitous that Ms. Huang said it "reached the point of obsession." Few of the students she observed followed instructions, took notes, or brought their textbooks to class.
"Many students often asked repeatedly how to do assignments even though the instructors explained several times," Ms. Huang wrote. Some students completed their assignments and sent them to their instructors in the middle of class.
You can read the full article here (subscription required).