Richard Arum to deliver keynote address on critical thinking at RIT Sept. 26

Lecture based on results from controversial book ‘Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses’




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Richard Arum

More than 90 percent of employers rate written communication, critical thinking and problem solving as “very important” for the job success of new labor market entrants.

—Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa; Academically Adrift

Richard Arum, one of the world’s foremost sociologists of education, will be the keynote speaker at the second annual Eugene H. Fram Chair in Applied Critical Thinking lecture at Rochester Institute of Technology. The event will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, in Webb Auditorium, James E. Booth Hall.

Arum’s lecture on “Critical Thinking, College and Careers: Lessons from a Study of Recent College Graduates,” is based on the results from his widely discussed book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), co-authored with Josipa Roksa.

“College graduates in the 21st century will increasingly be judged by their ability to demonstrate critical thinking skills,” says Arum, director of the Institute for Human Development and Social Change at New York University. “These skills serve as the foundation for individual labor market performance and the ability to engage in democratic citizenship.”

Relying on student surveys and transcript analysis, Arum and Roska’s data revealed little or no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills after tracking the academic gains of 2,300 traditional-age students enrolled at 25 colleges and universities. Their studies revealed:

  • 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college;
  • 36 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college.

“Richard Arum’s provocative and controversial scholarship demands critical reflection and serious attention,” says Clarence Burton Sheffield Jr., the Eugene H. Fram Chair in Applied Critical Thinking and associate professor in RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. “While his assessments are sobering, indeed troubling to many, they are also accompanied by a bold, important and decisive call for action.

“He advocates a renewed commitment to academic rigor and quality, and that we require and maintain a higher standard for our students and ourselves.”

Eugene Fram, the J. Warren McClure professor emeritus of marketing in RIT’s Saunders College of Business where he taught for 51 years, says Arum’s findings are solid. “They alert college faculty to the importance of applied critical thinking to improve pedagogical effectiveness.”

Fram was honored in 2012 by an anonymous RIT Saunders alumnus who donated $3 million to establish The Eugene H. Fram Chair in Applied Critical Thinking at RIT. The purpose of the chair is to provide collaborative leadership, advocacy, oversight and management regarding applied critical thinking for the entire RIT campus.

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Richard Arum