Archive - January, 2011

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

I read about this book in USA Today and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and it sounds outstanding — and sobering. It is largely a presentation of extensive research done on “how much 2,300 statistically representative undergraduates—who enrolled as freshmen in a diverse group of 24 colleges and universities in 2005—had learned by the time they (in theory) were ready to graduate, in 2009.” As a measuring tool, they used the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test that gauges students’ critical thinking, analytic reasoning and writing skills. Their findings?
* After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.
* Students spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago.
* 35% of students report spending five or fewer hours per week studying alone.
* 50% said they never took a class in a typical semester where they wrote more than 20 pages; 32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.
It’s not all bad news. As Kevin Carey reports:

After controlling for demographics, parental education, SAT scores, and myriad other factors, students who were assigned more books to read and more papers to write learned more. Students who spent more hours studying alone learned more. Students taught by approachable faculty who enforced high expectations learned more. “What students do in higher education matters,” the authors note. “But what faculty members do matters too.”

Another piece of good news is that who learned the most came from a variety of academic backgrounds. Read the whole thing.
Note: As my book makes clear, I’m not advocating for endless solitary, nose-grinding work without play. David Brooks’ op-ed piece has a point. I just wonder if we insufficiently value the fundamental development of critical thinking and higher order cognitive skills. It can be both-and, not an either-or.

Incoming College Students Rate Emotional Health at Record Low

Incoming freshmen, particularly women, are stressed out and students’ self-ratings of emotional health dropped to a record 25-year low in 2010. Only 45% of female freshmen perceive that their emotional health is above average; the figure is close to 60% for men. These are among the findings of a survey called The American Freshman: National Norms. The survey, involving more than 200,000 incoming, full-time students, was recently published by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies as part of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP).
These observations have caught the attention of ABC News, the New York Times, and Time magazine. Some are questioning the wording of the study, which asks students to compare themselves to their peers. Such surveys often result in The Lake Wobegon effect, with a vast majority of persons reporting themselves as being above-average. Still, the trend over the last 25 years is alarming. As Maia Szalavitz of Time magazine reports:

A quarter century ago, nearly 70% of freshmen put themselves in the top 10% of mentally stable people in their class; today only 52% rate themselves that highly, down 3 points since last year.

However, the UCLA study also reports that:

While students’ perceived emotional health took a downturn, their drive to achieve and their academic abilities are trending upward. More students than ever before (71.2 percent) rated their academic abilities as “above average” or in the “highest 10 percent,” and 75.8 percent rated their drive to achieve in the same terms. Often considered positive traits, high levels of drive to achieve and academic ability could also contribute to students’ feelings of stress, said John H. Pryor, lead author of the report and director of CIRP.

It makes sense that it would. As Pryor notes, “If students are arriving in college already overwhelmed and with lower reserves of emotional health, faculty, deans and administrators should expect to see more consequences of stress, such as higher levels of poor judgment around time management, alcohol consumption and academic motivation.”
Other possible origins suggested by the authors include the economic downturn, the perception that a college degree can’t guarantee someone a well-paying job, and a sense that one won’t be as successful or financially well off as his or her parents. Not surprisingly, pre-college stress is also at an all-time high.

Tchividjian, Veith, and Horton on Thriving at College

Sorry the blogging is so light these days. My schedule has been quite full of late and I’m looking forward the redesign of this site, which should be ready in a few weeks. It’s Wednesday, so here’s the next installment of endorsements for Thriving at College. The two books listed below by Dr. Veith were quite helpful to me in the writing of the academic chapters of the book.

“Since my oldest son is getting ready to tackle college in a couple years, I’m super grateful for Alex Chediak’s book. Writing from the perspective of both a parent and a professor, Dr. Chediak presents a practical guide on how students can spiritually and intellectually thrive during their college years. In clear, concise, and compelling ways he “tackles” the issues students will inevitably encounter, showing how both the obstacles and opportunities can serve to develop character that will last a lifetime. This book will be required reading for all three of my children.”
Tullian Tchividjian
Senior Pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Author, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different

“A handbook of practical wisdom for the would-be college student. Chediak expertly navigates the competing callings of undergraduate life, shedding light on what it means both to ‘love God with all your mind’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ This book is an essential summer read for every incoming freshman.”
Dr. Gene Veith
Provost and Professor of Literature, Patrick Henry College
Author of Loving God With All Your Mind and God at Work

“When Alex Chediak talks about thriving at college, he speaks from experience. After all, he’s spent a lot of time on campus: from undergrad to professor. Yet he’s also been involved for many years in college and singles ministry. Put all of that together, along with a wide knowledge of Scripture, and you have the ideal author of a really helpful book. However, this book lacks a lot that one might expect, like a condescending tone, easy formulas, and clichés. Thriving at College is full of wisdom on every major aspect of this wonderful episode in the life of many people today: spiritual, relational, ethical, and even economic.”
Dr. Michael Horton
J. G. Machen Professor of Theology, Westminster Seminary California, Escondido, CA
Author, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way

Previous endorsement posts have featured Alex & Brett Harris, Bob Lepine, and Leland Ryken, and before that Albert Mohler, Jerry Bridges, and Tedd Tripp, and before that Randy Alcorn and David Dockery. Perhaps consider “liking” the book on Facebook (hoping to learn more about the FB page thing in due course).

Theology for Pilgrims – 45% Off

Michael Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. His new systematic theology, hot off the press, is available for one-week only at $27.49 from WTS Books. That’s 45% off, and a few bucks less than Amazon. I just got my copy and it looks great.

“Michael Horton’s new systematic theology has been long-awaited and does not disappoint. Here is classic, deep, orthodox Reformed theology, written in a way that is thoughtful and engaged… For those who think one must make a choice between guarding the faith and being thoughtfully relevant, think again: this book both teaches theology and is an example of how theology should be done. The reader who is undaunted by the number of pages will be richly rewarded.”
— Carl Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Westminster Theological Seminary

“[A] major restatement of Christian truth for today… carried through in a fresh and stimulating fashion out of a deep commitment to Reformation and post-Reformation orthodoxy enriched by the subsequent redemptive-historical insights of Geerhardus Vos and others… One may have reservations about the author’s “forensic ontology” and aspects of his use of speech act theory yet benefit greatly from his able and biblically sound treatment of numerous theological topics.”
— Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

“[A] systematic theology for this generation of the Reformed movement.”
— Bryan Chapell, President, Covenant Theological Seminary

“A crisp, clear, and forceful new theology that is at once biblical and reverent, historical and contemporary, learned but accessible.”
— David F. Wells, Distinguished Research Professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

“Dr. Horton has produced a remarkable work. His approach to systematic theology is fresh and critically needed in our time.”
— R. C. Sproul, Chairman and President, Ligonier Ministries

“Horton’s Christian Faith has the great merit of never letting the reader forget that doctrine is for disciples who want to walk the way of Jesus Christ. Horton knows that the best systematic theology is a practical theology—one that helps us understand the ways of God, makes sense of life, and gives direction for God-glorifying living. He also knows that the best systematic theologies draw on biblical and historical theology. May many readers therefore take up this book, read, and walk!”
— Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Blanchard Professor of Theology, Wheaton College and Graduate School

Alex & Brett Harris, Bob Lepine, and Leland Ryken on Thriving at College

I’m thrilled to announce that Alex and Brett Harris, co-authors of best-selling Do Hard Things and Start Here, have written the Foreword for Thriving at College (note the updated info on Amazon).
Here’s how the Foreword ends:
“The student who thrives at college—the student who glorifies God with his or her college years—is the one who sees it as a great opportunity that comes with great responsibility. Alex Chediak understands this better than most, with the experience and heart to help students reach their full God-given potential. Thriving at College will help you navigate the common pitfalls relating to faith, relationships, academics, and extracurricular activities.
There is no better guide to college than this.”
-Alex and Brett Harris

And a couple other endorsements (for previous endorsement posts, see here and here):
“Many in my generation look back on their college years with regrets, wishing we had been more intentional and focused during our time on campus. Alex Chediak’s book would have helped us. Like a skilled mountain guide leading through potentially treacherous terrain, he wisely and effectively helps students understand how to get the most out of their time inside and outside of the college classroom. Before you invest four years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars, spend a few dollars and a few hours to read this book.”
Bob Lepine, Co-Host
FamilyLife Today

“Alex Chediak’s goal is to spare college-bound young people from entering college thoughtlessly and then drifting after they are there. The book has all the right ingredients to meet that goal for anyone who reads it. The book has two great strengths. The topics that Chediak puts on the table are a veritable guide to the college experience. Secondly, Chediak writes about these topics engagingly, with good sense, and thoughtfully. I can commend the book by saying to young people headed for college: Don’t leave home without it.”
Dr. Leland Ryken
Professor, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL
Author, Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure

For the Fame of God’s Name – Essays in Honor of John Piper

For the Fame of God’s Name is a tremendous resource for anyone seeking a better grasp of the personal life, pastoral ministry, God-centered theology, and far-reaching legacy of John Piper. John Piper is a remarkable man: hard-working, disciplined, focused, intense, and introverted–yet deeply compassionate, pastoral, and tender-hearted towards others in his midst and deeply moved by the wider social ills of our day, including matters of race and prejudice, abortion, the spiritual and physical poverty of unreached people groups, the victims of tsunamis and earthquakes, and the manacles of materialism that saddle Christians, spoiling their appetite for God and crippling their effectiveness for the Greatest Cause. John thinks, feels, preaches and writes with all his might, and he does them all for the glory of God.
For the Fame of God’s Name is a compilation of essays penned by those whose ministries have been shaped by the ripple effects of John’s preaching, and by those who have known him closely and personally for many years. I commend this book to anyone seeking a better grasp of the man John Piper and, more importantly, the God he serves.

“I Have a Dream” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here is the full video of what is widely regarded as one of the great speeches of the twentieth century. If you’ve never heard or read it, I encourage you to do so. The content and delivery are equally masterful, full of active verbs and vivid images. Note the string of metaphors, powerfully engaging the listener:

Short Video Promoting Thriving at College

I felt a bit goofy watching this, and my wife says I looked like Mike Huckabee when he was overweight. With that, how can you resist watching this one-minute promo video put together with such excellence by the good folks at Tyndale?

The President’s Speech

Paul Mirengoff of Powerline gets it right: It was a great speech. President Obama really seized the moment, and was able to come across as winsome and balanced (in contrast, for example, to his presser after the compromise to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts for another two years). Paul breaks down the speech into its three parts:

“It [the speech] can be divided into three parts – a tribute to the victims, a denunciation of attempts to use the incident to make partisan attacks, and a related call for more civility in politics.”

He goes on to explain how Obama was able to thread the needle in each area — something in the past he has often failed to do, his oratorical brilliance notwithstanding.
But then Paul rightly notes that this was a speech, not a conversion. Read the whole thing, including his follow-up.

Albert Mohler, Jerry Bridges, and Tedd Tripp

Last week I mentioned that I’d be posting the endorsements for Thriving at College on a weekly basis, two or three at a time. I’m very grateful to all who took interest in this book. Having just proofread the galleys for the last time, I was really happy with how it turned out, more pleased (if it’s OK to admit this) than I’ve been with anything I’ve ever written. I hope you will consider it for a friend.
“College represents one of the most strategic transitional moments in the lives of most young Christians. Alex Chediak offers solid advice and counsel in Thriving at College. In this book, he provides good wisdom and sound practical advice to young Christians seeking to navigate the world of higher education while simultaneously maturing into faithful Christians.”
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Thriving at College is an outstanding book for college students. Written by an “insider” – a former student, now a professor, this book addresses all the issues a student might face. It will be an excellent gift for all high school seniors who are planning to attend college.”
Dr. Jerry Bridges
Best-selling Author, The Pursuit of Holiness

“Alex Chediak’s Thriving at College is really a user’s guide to college. All the things I speak to college students about are here: maintaining your faith, developing nurturing friendships, wisdom in relationships, becoming mature, finding balance, growing in spiritual maturity, seizing opportunities; its all here. This book is a “must read” for kids headed to college as well as students who are already there. I trust this book will find its way into the hands of many students.”
Pastor Tedd Tripp
Best-Selling Author, Shepherding a Child’s Heart

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