New research finds that 45 percent of undergraduate college students show no significant improvement in the areas of critical thinking and complex reasoning by the end of their sophomore year.
The study, conducted by Richard Arum, sociology and education professor at New York University and Jospia Roksa, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, tracked more than 2,300 college students at 24 universities from their freshman year in 2005 through their senior year.
Over the four year period, the students were tested using the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized essay-based test that measures analytic and problem solving skills, reports the New York Times. The test was given both before and throughout the student’s time at college.
News website Inside Higher Ed explains some of the study’s results:
- 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college.
- 36 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college.
- Those students who do show improvements tend to show only modest improvements. Students improved on average only 0.18 standard deviations over the first two years of college and 0.47 over four years. What this means is that a student who entered college in the 50th percentile of students in his or her cohort would move up to the 68th percentile four years later — but that’s the 68th percentile of a new group of freshmen who haven’t experienced any college learning.
According to the New York Times, the results also showed that many students are not engaging in a challenging curriculum. Half of the students did not take a course requiring 20 pages of writing over a typical semester and 32 percent did not take a course that required at least 40 pages of reading per week.
The results are discussed in a new book based on the study, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.