How much smarter do you get in college? As it turns out, the answer may be “not much.”A new study involving 2,300 undergraduate students at 29 different universities shows that after two years of study, 45 percent of students showed no significant improvement in areas of critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing. After four complete years of study, 36 percent still showed no improvement. Those that did, showed marginal improvements. On average, a student scored seven percentage points higher in the spring of 2007 than they did in the fall of 2005. In other words, by the end of a student’s sophomore year, a student who scored within the 50th percentile their freshman year, is comparable to a freshman that scored in the 57th percentile.”It’s quite clear from the employer surveys that we conduct that we’re not doing enough to teach these skills,” said Norman Jones, head of the history department. “They are telling us again and again that the number one problem with college graduates is that they can’t communicate.”The second most common skill that employers say college graduates lack? Jones said critical thinking skills.The findings, which were published in the book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” claim that a lack of academic rigor is largely to blame. Of the students involved in the study, half had never taken a course that required 20 pages of writing during the semester. One-third did not take a single course that required 40 or more pages of reading per week.”Our current system of credit hours comes from a 1910 study which stated that the same way Henry Ford built a Model-T is the same way we should build students, piece by piece,” said Jones. “But a credit hour does not equal competence, only how long you have sit in class.”The shortcomings of the “Model-T” education have not gone unnoticed. Several colleges on campus, including the college of humanities and social sciences, are undergoing changes in their curriculum in order to better meet the needs of their students. The Huntsman School of Business has hired a private consultant, Angela Redding, to help them improve in areas of communication and analytical rigor.”There are things employers are willing to teach someone, and things they are not,” said Redding. “They are not willing to teach you how to speak, communicate effectively, or be creative.”The curriculum, however, cannot shoulder all of the blame for the failure of higher education. Redding, a USU alumna, said students need to take personal accountability and accountability in their educations.
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