When it comes to whether or not college students are reading or writing enough, the hard truth is that we're not.
Numerous studies have been devoted to assessing this. These studies have covered a wide range of what one might consider reading, from assigned academic reading to reading for pleasure.The studies have churned out some interesting results and shed a revealing light at how students approach reading both inside the classroom and out.
Despite boasting enormous workloads, juggling multiple classes and labs and passionately longing for a few more hours during the day, it appears that students are missing out on a critical component of higher education. In a recent book and its accompanying study, "Academically Adrift," written by Richard Arum, a professor at New York University, and Josipa Roksa, an associate professor at the University of Virginia, startling number of students are shown to be deprived of the adequate means to improve their critical thinking skills, analytical reasoning and written communication skills.
Most of these afflictions cite lower enrollment in reading and writing-intensive classes during the first two years of college. Approximately 32 percent of 2,300 undergraduates at 24 four-year universities over the course of an average semester did not take "any courses with more than 40 pages of reading per week." And 50 percent of students "did not take a single course in which they wrote 20 pages over the course of the entire semester."
In order to assess how these students were learning in college, subjects took the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized exam that is essay-based and open-ended and judges key critical thinking and analysis skills. Researchers were not surprised that students who took more reading and writing-intensive courses in college saw the most gains their ability to practice those key skills.
Assigned reading, or lack thereof, is not the whole story. Studies have shown that reading outside of typical classwork, reading a novel or general non-fiction for pleasure, has been associated with heightened creativity and with improved academic success. But college students aren't doing enough pleasure reading either.
Published in July 2011, a study called "Reading, Risk, and Reality," conducted by Julie Gilbert, an assistant professor, and Barbara Fisher, an academic librarian, at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., assessed the likelihood that students read outside their assigned work in college.
Again, the results revealed much about reading in college. As many as 90 percent of students surveyed suggested that they enjoyed reading for pleasure, but nearly 90 percent of students read for pleasure less than 3 total hours during week. 10 percent of students don't read for pleasure at all.
Students in pre-professional programs spend the least amount of time reading outside of their assigned texts including engineers, nurses, business majors, etc. So far it is unclear as to whether or not extended practice in reading or writing diminishes these students' critical thinking and analysis skills, considering their strong exposure to problem solving in hands-on learning experiences in the lab and in the field, but it is clear that many of these students struggle to even reach out towards reading for pleasure.
So why aren't students reading enough? Many of survey respondents cite a lack of time as the culprit, reasoning that they spend so much time between attending class and completing assignments that they run out of hours during the day or are mentally burned out from homework and other academic endeavors. Picking up a popular novel simply does not fit into their daily schedules or within the confines of elaborate examples of multitasking.