I’m almost half-way through this book and am finding it to be outstanding. Amazingly, it’s still doing so well on Amazon, considering the somewhat focused topic — which I think often limits sales to those with a “felt need” in that particular area. It’s fundamentally a book about higher education for those “in the system” (like me) or concerned/interested with the process.
A few weeks ago Thomas H. Benton penned an excellent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reflecting on Academically Adrift. Benton argues that “few people outside of higher education understand how little control professors actually have over what students can learn.”
Actually, as I noted in a previous post, one of the main points of Academically Adrift is that what professors do matters — a lot. Having higher expectations, pushing students to work more (by having meatier assignments and more rigorous examinations) does make a difference: Students in such environments do actually learn more as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment. Nevertheless, I understand what Benton is driving at (and I don’t know that he’d disagree with the above): As educators, we often wish there was more we could do, but real obstacles do exist. Benton goes on to name a few. I’ve not personally encountered all of these, but he makes a strong case:
1. Lack of student preparation.
2. Grade inflation. (Search this phrase on this website, and you’ll find a few posts on this topic.)
3. Student retention.
4. Student evaluations of teachers.
5. Enrollment minimums.
6. Lack of uniform expectations.
7. Contingent teaching.
8. Time constraints.
9. Curricular chaos.
10. Demoralized faculty members.