Archive for September 7th, 2012

September 7, 2012

College has become easier according to data on studying and grades

by Grace

Based on declining study times and rising grade averages, college has become easier.  Among other reasons, it may be a natural outcome of the increased economic and academic diversity on campus.

Over the past half-century, the amount of time college students actually study — read, write and otherwise prepare for class — has dwindled from 24 hours a week to about 15, survey data show.

And that invites a question: Has college become too easy?…

Measures of learning corroborate declining study time measures.

The finding has led some critics to question whether college is delivering on its core mission: student learning. Sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa identified lax study as a key failing of academia in their 2011 report “Academically Adrift,” which found that 36 percent of students made no significant gains in critical-thinking skills in college. Arum’s own research found that students study only 12 hours a week.

Anecdotal information from college professors and employers seem to confirm these findings.

Full-time college used to be a full-time endeavor.

Evidence of declining study was mostly ignored until 2010, when two University of California economists brought the issue to the fore in a paper titled “Leisure College, USA.”

Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks unearthed previous research, part of a longitudinal study called Project Talent, that showed students of 1961 spent about 24 hours a week studying.

They calculated that those students spent another 16 hours in class time, or 40 hours in total weekly scholarship, giving college, for them, the feel of a full-time endeavor.

By contrast, the typical student today spends 27 hours a week in study and class time, roughly the same time commitment expected of students in a modern full-day kindergarten.

In place of studying, many students are working.

“They’re working full time and going to school full time, which I think is absurd,” said Joe Scimecca, a sociology professor at George Mason. “I asked a class recently how many were working, and there were only two who weren’t.”

Dixon, the sophomore from Haymarket, is majoring in tourism, works 23 hours a week at a campus information desk, commutes up to two hours a day and volunteers at church.

“My planner is a wreck,” she said.

Which schools rank higher in study time?  Not the ones you might guess.

Colleges that rate high in study time are typically small liberal-arts schools, often set in remote locales. Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and Centre College in Danville, Ky., all report more than 20 hours of average weekly study for freshmen, seniors or both….

What sets such schools apart? Pedar Foss, dean of academic life at DePauw, found clues sprinkled across the student survey. DePauw students almost never work off campus, care for relatives or commute long distances. DePauw seniors are twice as likely as students at other schools to read at least 11 assigned books in an academic year. They write more than their peers.

“They’re held accountable for how well they can speak, and how well they can draw upon evidence, and whether they know what they’re talking about,” Foss said.

It also depends on your major.

Another key to study time is one’s choice of major. McCormick, director of the student engagement survey, analyzed 85 majors and found a 13-hour spread in average weekly study. Architecture students studied the most, at 24 hours a week. Further down the list, in descending order: physics (20 hours), music and biology (17), history (15), psychology (14), communications (13) and, at 11 hours, parks, recreation and leisure studies.

I have a friend with a son who is studying architecture, and from her description he is at the lab all hours of the day and night.  When I was in school engineers spent the most time studying, something we gauged based on hours spent in the library.

This Is College Getting Easier infographic shows speech majors spend the least amount of time studying.  It also shows that the most common grade given by colleges today is an ‘A’.

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