Measuring academic drift

College students should learn more than analytical thinking, writes psychologist Robert Sternberg in response to the Academically Adrift study showing many students don’t progress in two or even four years in college on the Collegiate Learning Assessment. But would an assessment of “creative thinking, practical thinking (the ability to apply knowledge) or wise and ethical thinking” show better results?

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  1. “In addition, CLA doesn’t measure “tacit knowledge” that students should gain in college, such as learning how to “form relationships with people and network effectively, how and from whom you seek help when you need it, how you decide whom you can trust and of whom you should be suspicious, how you meet the demands of an organization (collegiate or otherwise) while maintaining a meaningful life, and so forth.””

    Oh, good grief. You can learn these things in places other than college. You can learn them at work. You can learn them in the military. Many people learn these skills in high school and/or from their families.

    Every time anyone points out deficiencies of our universities, there is always some academic wanting to change the subject by talking about other possible measurements. It’s reminiscent of the dot-com bubble when, if someone were so rude as to point out that a given company had negative net income and a rapidly diminishing cash position, various people would want to change the subject by focusing on “eyeballs” or some such.

  2. I would agree here, since I’ve given presentations on those things to college students trying to understand the important of networking and unfortunately, there appears to be a serious disconnect between academics (in many cases) and the real world (most of what I know I learned by actually doing it on the job, or through self-study in my field).

  3. We know how to teach college physics. We do not know how to teach creativity or other fuzzy skills. Nevertheless, a thousand sophists purporting to know how will spring up to meet the market demand for creativity training.

    K-12 education is all about “skills building” these days, despite the paucity of evidence that what they’re doing is actually building skills (in fact there’s a lot of evidence that they’re NOT building skills). Schools CAN unequivocally teach phonics, handwriting, grammar, history, biology, Spanish, etc. Schools should focus on imparting this intellectual wealth and abandon the phony “skills building” curriculum. Of course intellectual skills are important, but until we really understand how they’re imparted, let’s stop pretending and wasting kids’ time.