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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues

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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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Part Nine: How Much Are College Students Learning?

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← 252 | 253 →

Part Nine:  How Much Are College Students Learning?

In “Limited by Design? A Critical Sociohistorical Analysis of Postsecondary Learning Outcomes,” Ezekiel Kimball, Juan Manuel Ruiz-Hau, and Fermin Valle employ the concept of “interest convergence” to show how the most powerful groups in society acquire benefits while appearing to act for the public good. The authors claim that practice pervades higher education and has produced differential collegiate experiences and learning outcomes depending upon students’ political, social, and economic status. This class division is relevant to controversial issues of knowledge acquisition in our educational institutions. More hopefully, Kimball, Ruiz-Hau, and Valle close by reminding us that many marginalized students are pressing the academy to create more authentic and emancipatory learning.

In “Are College Students Learning More or Less Than in the Past,” Sergio Ossorio and Kimberly A. Kline first consider the meaning of student learning and how college personnel can most effectively provide for and assess the ends and means of that complicated notion. They posit that structural changes are needed in both curricula and pedagogical methods. The authors are especially sensitive to affective factors that are often missing in traditional forms of classroom practice that emphasize cognitive acquisition. Accordingly, Ossorio and Kline recommend that universities enlarge upon such alternative pathways as collaborative learning and authentic assessment. ← 253 | 254 →

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