First of all, what the heck is critical thinking? So does reading unassigned books. Four years of college need not produce an effect twice as great as two years of college, any more than a space heater that increases the temperature of a room 10 degrees after being left on for one hour will increase the temperature degrees after being left on for a year.
Arum and Roska recently wrote a book on this kind of thing, Academically Adriftand they find that two years of college start of freshman to end of sophomore only increases critical thinking by 0. According to one review: But in any case we need a better study design to conclude anything from this.
They find this in the four-year college sample, and a garbled u-shaped mess in the two-year college sample. On the other hand, some other studies find less impressive effect sizes. Well, we know that people will gain critical thinking skills during the four years from age 18 to age But this could be for any number of reasons.
The evidence sort of supports him, but with the usual caveats and uncertainties. The secondlarger study compares students doing college full-time to students doing college part-time, under the theory that if college is causing the effect, then a little college should cause a small effect, but lots of college should cause a big effect.
I have tried not to be bogged down by this bias, but take it into account when reading my interpretations below. But those of you who went to my talk last week hopefully know what my next question will be: A commenter pointed out this was true only of a subset in two-year colleges, but not of four-year colleges or college in general — which shows the expected linear relationship.
My bias is against the current college system doing much good. Studying a lot seems to help. Luckily, we have a very objective scientific answer: College entrance to end of sophomore ie half of college improves critical thinking by 0.
An earlier version of this post claimed that one paper had shown a u-shaped relationship between time spent in college and critical thinking. Likewise, preschool makes children do much better in kindergarten, but by third grade the preschool-educated kids are doing the same or worse as the others.
At least the four-year sample, which is what most people are interested in, looks good.If being “uninvolved alienated” with other students* is increasing your critical thinking skills, then a lot of mental illnesses and disabilities should correlate positively with critical thinking or at least should dampen the negative effects of said illnesses.
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