Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More

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Princeton University Press, Jan 15, 2008 - Education - 429 pages

Drawing on a large body of empirical evidence, former Harvard President Derek Bok examines how much progress college students actually make toward widely accepted goals of undergraduate education. His conclusions are sobering. Although most students make gains in many important respects, they improve much less than they should in such important areas as writing, critical thinking, quantitative skills, and moral reasoning. Large majorities of college seniors do not feel that they have made substantial progress in speaking a foreign language, acquiring cultural and aesthetic interests, or learning what they need to know to become active and informed citizens. Overall, despite their vastly increased resources, more powerful technology, and hundreds of new courses, colleges cannot be confident that students are learning more than they did fifty years ago.


Looking further, Bok finds that many important college courses are left to the least experienced teachers and that most professors continue to teach in ways that have proven to be less effective than other available methods. In reviewing their educational programs, however, faculties typically ignore this evidence. Instead, they spend most of their time discussing what courses to require, although the lasting impact of college will almost certainly depend much more on how the courses are taught.


In his final chapter, Bok describes the changes that faculties and academic leaders can make to help students accomplish more. Without ignoring the contributions that America's colleges have made, Bok delivers a powerful critique--one that educators will ignore at their peril.

 

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User Review  - frisbeeguy49 - LibraryThing

In this book, Derek Bok does an incredible job of laying out the shortcomings in undergraduate education. However, he does this without failing to acknowledge the good being achieved. As a former ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jgrann - LibraryThing

Offers a condensed, but still interesting, review of higher education as an industry - focusing on the evolving purpose of higher education and public expectations. Reviews current state of teaching ... Read full review

Contents

THE EVOLUTION OF AMERICAN COLLEGES
11
FACULTY ATTITUDES TOWARD UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION
31
3 I PURPOSES
58
4 I LEARNING TO COMMUNICATE
82
5 I LEARNING TO THINK
109
6 I BUILDING CHARACTER
146
7 PREPARATION FOR CITIZENSHIP
172
8 I LIVING WITH DIVERSITY
194
9 PREPARING FOR A GLOBAL SOCIETY
225
10 ACQUIRING BROADER INTERESTS
255
11 I PREPARING FOR A CAREER
281
12 IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION
310
AFTERWORD TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION
345
NOTES
361
INDEX
411
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Derek Bok is President Emeritus and Research Professor at Harvard University and the author of many major books on higher education, including (with William Bowen) The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions and Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education (both Princeton).

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