Studying & Learning Less

27 Feb

You may have heard some form of the phrase, “When I was your age…” After discussion about the perception of college students in the media I decided to find out what exactly is being said about college students. My method was not very scientific, but the results were.

A simple Google search brought up these interesting results:

Google search for "College students today"

While students are leaving their high schools with perfect 4.0 grade point averages and SAT scores, once students get to college they’re not doing one thing: studying.

A recent study by two California economic professors found that over the last five decades the numbers of hours that students study have declined drastically.

Philip Babcock, at the University of California Santa Barbara, and Mindy Marks, at the University of California Riverside, analyzed time-use surveys—which showed that the average student at a four-year college in 1961 studied for about 24 hours each week, while today the average student only studies for about 14 hours.

This trend seems to apply to all demographics—major, gender, race or size of school.

“It’s not just limited to bad schools,” Babcock told the Boston Globe. “We’re seeing it at liberal arts colleges, doctoral research colleges, masters colleges. Every different type, every different size. It’s just across the spectrum. It’s very robust. This is just a huge change in every category.”

Furthermore, in a many surveys since 2000, college and high school students have admitted that they are studying very little or not at all.

Skeptics of these finding claim that students do so much more these days like hold jobs and extracurricular activities, but that they also have tools that are much more efficient. However, Babcock and Mark claim that the greatest decline, 24.4 hours per week to 16.8, took place between 1961 and 1981 before the Internet came about.

Another recent study by sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia, showed that 45 percent of college students show no significant improvement in their critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by sophomore year, according to CBS News.

So if students aren’t studying or learning, what are students doing with an education that can be hundreds of thousands of dollars?

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2 Responses to “Studying & Learning Less”

  1. Ellen Moeller February 28, 2011 at 12:20 PM #

    Christina, this is a really interesting post and I can’t decide whether I am surprised or not with the findings. At first when you mentioned that students spend much less time studying, I figured that it had to do with technological innovations such as the internet and personal computers that make writing and researching so much more efficient. But it is interesting that the major changes happened between 1961 and 1981, and I do wonder why this is. It’s also disappointing that as much as 45% of students showed no improvement by their sophomore year. I feel like I have grown and learned so much each year that I have spent at Duke, so hopefully that is not the case here!

  2. Leah April 13, 2011 at 8:59 PM #

    I think this is true because there are more resources that help students get by with less effort. It seems like a good idea at the time but bites them in the butt when all is said and done.

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