Community colleges may be insufficiently challenging, reports suggests

USA Today reports:

Though many community college students say their coursework is challenging, there is “ample evidence” colleges can do more to help more students do their best work, a report says.

The report, including findings from a survey of more than 343,000 students on 585 community college campuses in 48 states, aims to help colleges assess the quality of education their students receive. Questions are based on research showing that the more engaged, or actively involved, students are in their schoolwork, the more likely they are to meet educational goals.

Of this year’s respondents, 59% said their primary goal is to earn an associate’s degree, and 52% planned to transfer to a four-year college. Nationally, about 36% of community college students earn a certificate or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree within six years, according to a federal data analysis by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College.

Many said they were working hard, but overall findings offered a mixed picture of the intersection between student effort and faculty expectations.

For example, 49% of students said they often or very often worked harder than they thought they would need to meet an instructor’s standards, and 68% described their exams as more than moderately challenging.

Yet 67% of full-time students said they spent 10 or fewer hours preparing for class in an average week, and 24% said they always came to class prepared. Among full-time students, 29% said they had written four or fewer papers of any length during the current school year.

“Students aren’t going to learn to write well at that rate,” survey director Kay McClenney says.

When her organization asks students in focus groups about their academic experiences, she says, “one of the more poignant things we hear, and we hear it relatively often, is: ‘They don’t expect enough of me.’ “

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