Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Book Talk

Title: Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College CampusesDescription: Academically Adrift by Richard Arum: Book Cover
Tuesday, March 1, 2011. 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Location: Atwood Memorial Center, Cascade Room

Facilitated by Joseph Melcher, Carolyn Hartz, Stuart Umberger, Michael Mills and students of SCSU


In spite of soaring tuition costs, most young people are expected to attend college but almost no one asks the question posed by Academically Adrift: are undergraduates really learning anything once they get there?

Arum and Roksa document that the answer is mostly “no”, at least in terms of the goals of liberal education: critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing. Their research draws on survey responses, transcript data and...the state-of-the-art Collegiate Learning Assessment. Their analysis of 2,300 undergraduates at 24 institutions indicates that 45% of students demonstrate no significant improvement in CLA score during their first two years of college. The authors argue that this is the result of a student body distracted by socializing or working and an institutional culture that puts undergraduate learning close to the bottom of the priority list.


This is a very readable, well-focused report on a large-scale study of factors that seem to be limiting student learning. Assuming that the author's findings and analyses are largely correct, faculty, staff, students, and administrators need to discuss how their institutions can respond. The focus of this book talk will be to discuss how SCSU faculty and staff can or should respond to the message. In what ways can student learning become a higher priority? What can we do to counteract the forces that act against effective student learning? Is it feasible for us to act upon their primary recommendations, which are for faculty to increase the amount of reading and writing that students are required to do. We will also discuss some of their findings about differences between and within institutions, and between different types of students.