By RJ Snell, February 18, 2011 in Pedagogy and Teaching
The new study Academically Adrift reveals how little college students actually learn. It also spells out how little they are asked to do.
In particular, the study finds that students asked to do more than 40 pages of reading a week and more than 20 pages of writing a semester learn more than those assigned less.
20 pages? That seems unreasonably easy. 40 pages? What is this, middle school?
When I was first out of graduate school my courses (all undergraduate, both upper and lower level) had roughly 80 pages of writing assigned per student, with course caps of about 15 students. Over time I've had to lower that as my course enrollments have grown significantly. But still, the courses tend to have well over twenty pages of writing, and I think nothing of assigning much more than 40 pages per week. I do this as a matter of course.
Are my expectations unreasonable? If the study indicates that the 40/20 page ratio is considered more than usual, it leads me to think that many of my colleagues assign very little (and get very little in return).
There are limits, of course. I remember the prof who assigned me (in grad school) all three of Kant's critiques in a week. So let's set 2 of the critiques per week as the upper limit of reasonability--beyond that is just too much!