Advertisement

Does teaching rigorously really enhance undergraduates’ intellectual development? The relationship of academic rigor with critical thinking skills and lifelong learning motivations

  • K. C. CulverEmail author
  • John Braxton
  • Ernie Pascarella
Article

Abstract

While previous research has examined outcomes related to academic rigor, mixed findings have resulted from differing conceptualizations of rigor as well as varying methodological approaches. Defining rigor as those in-class practices and assignments that require students to engage in deep learning and demonstrate cognitive complexity, we use longitudinal student-level data from 46 four-year institutions in the USA to examine the relationship of academic rigor with undergraduate development of critical thinking skills and two aspects of self-motivated learning (need for cognition and positive attitudes towards literacy). We find that academic rigor is positively related to both aspects of self-motivated learning at the end of the first year of college, with an advantage for students who enter college with low ACT scores and those with less positive attitudes about reading and writing. Rigor is positively related to all three outcomes at the end of the fourth year, with the magnitude of these relationships tending to increase from the first year to the fourth year. Further, by disaggregating the composite measure of rigor into subscales that separate rigorous in-class practices from rigorous exams and assignments, we find that the relationship between rigor and intellectual development is sometimes driven by one form of rigorous practice, with in-class rigor especially benefitting the critical thinking skills of first-generation students. These findings have important implications for instructors, administrators, and scholars in higher education.

Keywords

Academic rigor Critical thinking Lifelong learning Self-motivated learning Intellectual development Instructional practices 

Notes

References

  1. ACT. (2010). ACT CAAP: technical handbook. Retrieved April 20, 2017 from http://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/CAAP-TechnicalHandbook.pdf.
  2. American Philosophical Association. (1990). Critical thinking: a statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction. ERIC document ED 315–423.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York, NY: LongmanGoogle Scholar
  4. Arum, R., & Roksa, J. (2011). Academically adrift: Limited learning on college campuses. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Astin, A. W. (1970a). The methodology of research on college impact, part one. Sociology of education, 223-254.Google Scholar
  6. Astin, A. W. (1970b). The methodology of research on college impact, part two. Sociology of education, 437-450.Google Scholar
  7. Austin, A. E. (2002). Preparing the next generation of faculty: graduate school as socialization to the academic career. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(1), 94–122.Google Scholar
  8. Biemer, P. P., & Christ, S. L. (2008). Weighting survey data. International handbook of survey methodology, 2008, 317–341.Google Scholar
  9. Biggs, J. (1979). Individual differences in study processes and the quality of learning outcomes. Higher Education, 8(4), 381–394.Google Scholar
  10. Bok, D. (2013). Higher education in America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bowman, N. A. (2010). College diversity experiences and cognitive development: a meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 80(1), 4–33.Google Scholar
  12. Bowman, N. A., & Culver, K. C. (2018). Promoting equity and student learning: rigor in undergraduate academic experiences. New Directions for Higher Education, 181, 47–58.  https://doi.org/10.1002/he. Google Scholar
  13. Braxton, J. M. (1995). Disciplines with an affinity for the improvement of undergraduate education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 64, 59–64.Google Scholar
  14. Braxton, J. M., & Nordvall, R. C. (1985). Selective liberal arts colleges: higher quality as well as higher prestige? The Journal of Higher Education, 56(5), 538–554.Google Scholar
  15. Braxton, J. M., Olsen, D., & Simmons, A. (1998). Affinity disciplines and the use of principles of good practice for undergraduate education. Research in Higher Education, 39(3), 299–318.Google Scholar
  16. Bray, G. B., Pascarella, E. T., & Pierson, C. T. (2004). Postsecondary education and some dimensions of literacy development: an exploration of longitudinal evidence. Reading Research Quarterly, 39(3), 306–330.Google Scholar
  17. Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1982). The need for cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(1), 116–131.Google Scholar
  18. Campbell, C. M. (2014). College educational quality project: 2013 pilot study technical report. New York: College Educational Quality (CEQ) Project, Teachers College, Columbia University.Google Scholar
  19. Campbell, C. M., & Dortch, D. (2018). Reconsidering academic rigor: posing and supporting rigorous course practices at two research universities. Teachers College Record, 120(5), 1-42.Google Scholar
  20. Campbell, C. M., Dortch, D., & Burt, B. A. (2018). Reframing rigor: a modern look at challenge and support in higher education. New Directions for Higher Education, 2018(181), 11–23.Google Scholar
  21. Candy, P. C. (1991). Self-direction for lifelong learning. A comprehensive guide to theory and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  22. Collins, L. M., Schafer, J. L., & Kam, C. M. (2001). A comparison of inclusive and restrictive strategies in modern missing data procedures. Psychological Methods, 6, 330–351.Google Scholar
  23. Conley, D. (2005). College knowledge: What it takes for students to succeed and how we can help them get ready. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  24. Cruce, T. M., Wolniak, G. C., Seifert, T. A., & Pascarella, E. T. (2006). Impacts of good practices on cognitive development, learning orientations, and graduate degree plans during the first year of college. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), 365–383.Google Scholar
  25. Draeger, J., del Prado Hill, P., Hunter, L. R., & Mahler, R. (2013). The anatomy of academic rigor: the story of one institutional journey. Innovative Higher Education, 38(4), 267–279.Google Scholar
  26. Entwistle, N. J., Hanley, M., & Ratcliffe, G. (1979). Approaches to learning and levels of understanding. British Educational Research Journal, 5(1), 99–114.Google Scholar
  27. European Commission. (2015). European qualifications framework. Retrieved April 27, 2018 from https://ec.europa.eu/ploteus/search/site?f%5B0%5D=im_field_entity_type%3A97.
  28. Facione, P. A. (2000). The disposition toward critical thinking: its character, measurement, and relationship to critical thinking skill. Informal Logic, 20(1), 61–84.Google Scholar
  29. Furedy, C., & Furedy, J. J. (1985). Critical thinking: Toward research and dialogue. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 1985(23), 51-69.Google Scholar
  30. Groves, R. M., Fowler, F. J., Jr., Couper, M. P., Lepkowski, J. M., Singer, E., & Tourangeau, R. (2009). Survey methodology (2nd ed.). Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  31. Harel, O. (2009). The estimation of R2 and adjusted R2 in incomplete data sets using multiple imputation. Journal of Applied Statistics, 36(10), 1109–1118.Google Scholar
  32. iPAL. (2017). International collaborative for performance assessment of learning in higher education – research and development. Retrieved May 19, 2018 from http://www.ipal-rd.com/index.php.
  33. IUCPR (Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research). (2003). National survey of student engagement: the college student report. Bloomington: Indiana University.Google Scholar
  34. Jaccard, J., & Turrisi, R. (2003). Interaction effects in multiple regression (2nd ed.). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Jessup-Anger, J. E. (2012). Examining how residential college environments inspire the life of the mind. The Review of Higher Education, 35(3), 431–462.Google Scholar
  36. Kilgo, C., Culver, K., Young, R., & Paulsen, M. (2017). The relationship between students’ perceptions of “good practices for undergraduate education” and the paradigmatic development of disciplines in course-taking behavior. Research in Higher Education, 58(4), 430–448.Google Scholar
  37. Kinzie J., Gonyea, R., Kuh, G., Umbach, P., Blaich, C., & Korkmaz, A. (2007). The relationship between gender and student engagement in college. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Louisville, KY.Google Scholar
  38. Kirby, J., Knapper, C., Lamon, P., & Egnatoff, W. J. (2010). Development of a scale to measure lifelong learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 29(3), 291–302.Google Scholar
  39. Knapper, C., & Cropley, A. J. (2000). Lifelong learning in higher education. Sterling: Stylus Publishing Inc..Google Scholar
  40. Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., et al. (2005). Student success in college: creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  41. Livneh, C., & Livneh, H. (1999). Continuing professional education among educators: predictors of participation in learning activities. Adult Education Quarterly, 49(2), 91–106.Google Scholar
  42. Loes, C. N., Saichaie, K., Padget, R. D., & Pascarella, E. T. (2012). The effects of teacher behaviors on students’ inclination to inquire and lifelong learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6(2), n2.Google Scholar
  43. Lumina Foundation. (2015). The degree qualifications profile. Retrieved May 19, 2018 from http://www.luminafoundation.org/files/resources/dqp.pdf.
  44. Lundberg, C. A. (2012). Predictors of learning for students from five different racial/ethnic groups. Journal of College Student Development, 53(5), 636–655.Google Scholar
  45. Marton, F., & Säljö, R. (1976). On qualitative differences in learning: I—outcome and process. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46(1), 4–11.Google Scholar
  46. Mayhew, M. J., Rockenbach, A. N., Bowman, N. A., Seifert, T. A., Wolniak, G. C., Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. Y. (2016). How college affects students (Vol. 3): 21st century evidence that higher education works. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  47. Myers, R. (1990). Classical and modern regression with applications (2nd ed.). Boston: Duxbury Press.Google Scholar
  48. Nelson-Laird, T. F., Seifert, T. A., Pascarella, E. T., Mayhew, M. J., & Blaich, C. F. (2014). Deeply affecting first-year students’ thinking: deep approaches to learning and three dimensions of cognitive development. The Journal of Higher Education, 85(3), 402–432.Google Scholar
  49. Nordvall, R. C., & Braxton, J. M. (1996). An alternative definition of quality of undergraduate college education: Toward usable knowledge for improvement. The Journal of Higher Education, 67(5), 483-497.Google Scholar
  50. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2013). Assessment of higher education learning outcomes. Feasibility study report. Volume 2: data analysis and national experiences. Retrieved April 20, 2018 from http://www.oecd.org/edu/skills-beyond-school/AHELOFSReportVolume2.pdf.
  51. Pascarella, E. T. (1985). College environmental influences on learning and cognitive development: A critical review and synthesis. Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, 1, 1–61.Google Scholar
  52. Pascarella, E.T. (2008). Quantitative methods section for the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education. Retrieved July 8, 2015 from https://education.uiowa.edu/sites/education.uiowa.edu/files/documents/centers/crue/research_methods_draft_march2008.pdf.
  53. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: a third decade of research (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  54. Pascarella, E., Bohr, L., Nora, A., & Terenzini, P. (1995). Cognitive effects of 2-year and 4-year colleges: new evidence. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 17(1), 83–96.Google Scholar
  55. Radford, A. W., Berkner, L., Wheeless, S., & Shepherd, B. (2010). Persistence and attainment of 2003–04 beginning postsecondary students: After six years. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education.Google Scholar
  56. Reason, R. Cox, B. E., McIntosh, K. T.(2010). Deep learning as an individual, conditional, and contextual influence on first-ear student outcomes. Paper presented at the Annual Forum of the Association for Institutional Research, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  57. Reed, J. H., & Kromrey, J. D. (2001). Teaching critical thinking in a community college history course: empirical evidence from infusing Paul’s Model. College Student Journal, 35(2), 201–215.Google Scholar
  58. Renaud, R. D., & Murray, H. G. (2007). The validity of higher-order questions as a process indicator of educational quality. Research in Higher Education, 48(3), 319–351.Google Scholar
  59. Sanford, N. (1966). Self and society. New York: Atherton Press.Google Scholar
  60. Scouller, K. (1998). The influence of assessment method on students’ learning approaches: multiple choice question examination versus assignment essay. Higher Education, 35(4), 453–472.Google Scholar
  61. Seifert, T. A., Goodman, K. M., Lindsay, N., Jorgensen, J. D., Wolniak, G. C., Pascarella, E. T., & Blaich, C. (2008). The effects of liberal arts experiences on liberal arts outcomes. Research in Higher Education, 49(2), 107–125.Google Scholar
  62. Seifert, T. A., Pascarella, E. T., Goodman, K. M., Salisbury, M. H., & Blaich, C. F. (2010). Liberal arts colleges and good practices in undergraduate education: additional evidence. Journal of College Student Development, 51(1), 1–22.Google Scholar
  63. Seifert, T. A., Gillig, B., Hanson, J. M., Pascarella, E. T., & Blaich, C. F. (2014). The conditional nature of high impact/good practices on student learning outcomes. The Journal of Higher Education, 85(4), 531–564.Google Scholar
  64. Seifert, T. A., Bowman, N. A., Wolniak, G. C., Rockenbach, A. N., & Mayhew, M. J. (2017). Ten challenges and recommendations for advancing research on the effects of college on students. AERA Open, 3(2), 2332858417701683.Google Scholar
  65. Smith, D. G. (1983). Instruction and outcomes in an undergraduate setting. In C. L. Ellner & C. P. Barnes (Eds.), Studies of college teaching: Experimental results, theoretical interpretations and new perspectives. Lexington: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  66. Stevens, J. P. (2002). Applied multivariate statistics for the social sciences (4th ed.). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  67. Trolian, T. L. (2014). What the Wabash National study can teach us about at-risk student populations. New Directions for Student Services, 2014(147), 77–87.Google Scholar
  68. Umbach, P. D., & Wawrzynski, M. R. (2005). Faculty do matter: the role of college faculty in student learning and engagement. Research in Higher Education, 46(2), 153–184.Google Scholar
  69. von Hippel, P. T. (2007). Regression with missing Ys: an improved strategy for analyzing multiply imputed data. Sociological Methodology, 37, 83–117.Google Scholar
  70. Weidman, J. C. (1989). Undergraduate socialization: A conceptual approach. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (Vol. 5). New York: Agathon.Google Scholar
  71. Wyre, S. H. (2012). Metacognitive enrichment for community college students. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 36(12), 994–1003.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.N491 Lindquist CenterThe University of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations