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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues


Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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18. Are College Students Learning More or Less Than in the Past? (Sergio Ossorio / Kimberly A. Kline)


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18.  Are College Students Learning More or Less Than in the Past?


From the historic colleges established during the colonial era to the cornucopia of contemporary institutions of higher education, which take shape in various forms (public and private colleges, for-profit colleges, four-year and two-year colleges, community colleges, and universities), student learning has been at the forefront of the central focus of these corporations. But what is student learning, and what do educators need to know to effectively measure it?

These questions have permeated systems of education throughout history. Faculty have deemed them the driving force of their curriculum. Student affairs professionals have adored the ideas, theories, and learning outcomes that sprout from posing them. Institutions have used them to assess the effectiveness of their faculty’s teaching and the level of educational prowess gained by their students throughout their collegiate careers.

As these questions are considered, a hotly contested new topic of debate has risen: are college students learning more or less than in the past? It may be argued that the past and the present, in both higher education and student learning, are differentiated by cultural shifts and the introduction of technology; and these shifts have reconstructed the learning environments of today relative to yesterday. But these nuances of change do not alter the core function and purpose of higher education—student learning. Hence, to determine whether collegians are...

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