“College is Too Easy”

An LATimes opinion piece by the authors of Academically Adrift says:

We recently tracked several thousand students as they moved through and graduated from a diverse set of more than two dozen colleges and universities, and we found consistent evidence that many students were not being appropriately challenged. In a typical semester, 50% of students did not take a single course requiring more than 20 pages of writing, 32% did not have any classes that required reading more than 40 pages per week, and 36% reported studying alone five or fewer hours per week.

Not surprisingly, given such a widespread lack of academic rigor, about a third of students failed to demonstrate significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing ability (as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment) during their four years of college.

Any of my students have more than 20 pages of writing and a lot of reading, though perhaps not 40 pages a week. I do wonder if my students realize they have written 20 pages, though, since this comes across an entire semester of essays, even for the literature students.

In much of higher education, the problem is in part that undergraduate education is no longer a top priority.

I agree with this in general. Excluding teaching SLACs and CCs, most of higher education focuses on graduate students or research. Teaching at all and certainly teaching of undergraduate students is underrated, both by the administration and by the faculty.

[T]hrough their professional advancement and tenure policies, schools encouraged faculty to focus more on research rather than teaching. When teaching was considered as part of the equation, student course assessments tended to be the method used to evaluate teaching, which tends to incentivize lenient grading and entertaining forms of instruction.

Yes. Exactly.

How do we support/reward teaching? That is a legitimate question that is too often ignored.

One thought on ““College is Too Easy””

  1. I encountered this issue today. I assigned Macbeth, giving the class two weeks to read the play, and was greeted with groans and looks of horror that they were actually expected to READ in a college literature class. All too often, reading and writing assignments are reduced or eliminated. I wonder if it has anything to do with pressure to increase/retain enrollment and the attitude that students are ‘customers’ who should be kept happy?

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