Innovative Higher Education

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 215–228 | Cite as

Developing a Student Conception of Academic Rigor

  • John Draeger
  • Pixita del Prado Hill
  • Ronnie Mahler
Article

Abstract

In this article we describe models of academic rigor from the student point of view. Drawing on a campus-wide survey, focus groups, and interviews with students, we found that students explained academic rigor in terms of workload, grading standards, level of difficulty, level of interest, and perceived relevance to future goals. These findings contrast with our previous research about the faculty conception of academic rigor (Draeger et al. 2013) based on active learning, meaningful content, higher-order thinking, and appropriate expectations. Our new research offers the prospect of increasing the level of academic challenge in ways that resonate with student concerns.

Keywords

academic rigor academic challenge NSSE student perspectives 

References

  1. Arum, R., & Roksa, J. (2011). Academically adrift: Limited learning on college campuses. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Astin, A. W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25, 297–308.Google Scholar
  3. Bain, K. (2012). What the best college students do. Belknap: Cambridge, MA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barrett, D. (2012). Harvard conference seeks to jolt university teaching. The Chronicle of Higher Education., 58(24). Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Harvard-Seeks-to-Jolt/130683/
  5. Blackburn, B. R. (2012). Rigor is not a four letter word. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.Google Scholar
  6. Braxton, J. (1993). Selectivity and rigor in research universities. Journal of Higher Education, 6, 657–675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Choy, S. C., & Cheah, P. K. (2009). Teacher perceptions of critical thinking among students and its influence on higher education. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education., 20, 198–206.Google Scholar
  8. Cope, C., & Staehr, L. (2005). Improving students’ learning approaches through intervention in an information systems learning environment. Studies in Higher Education, 30, 181–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cropley, A., & Knapper, C. (1983). Higher education and the promotion of lifelong learning. Studies in Higher Education, 8, 15–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 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, 267–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elder, L., & Paul, R. (2010). Critical thinking: Competency standards essential for the cultivation of intellectual skills, part I. Journal of Developmental Education, 34(2), 38–39.Google Scholar
  12. Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.Google Scholar
  13. Gordon, J., Ludlum, J., & Hoey, J. (2008). Validating NSSE against student outcomes: Are they related? Research in Higher Education, 49, 19–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Healey, M. (2005). Linking research and teaching: Exploring disciplinary spaces and the role of inquiry-based learning. In R. Barnett (Ed.), Reshaping the university: New relationships between research, scholarship and teaching (pp. 67–78). Maidenhead, United Kingdom: McGraw Hill/Open University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Huber, M. T., & Hutchings, P. (2005). The advancement of learning: Building the teaching commons. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  16. Kember, D. (2004). Interpreting student workload and the factors which shape students’ perceptions of their workload. Studies in Higher Education, 29, 165–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kember, D., & Leung, D. Y. P. (1998). Influences upon students’ perceptions of workload. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 18, 293–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kuh, G. (2003). What we're learning about student engagement from NSSE: Benchmarks for effective educational practice. Change, 35(2), 24–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kuh, G. (2009). The National Survey of Student Engagement: Conceptual and empirical foundations. New Directions for Institutional Research, 141, 5–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. LaNasa, S., Cabrera, A., & Trangsrud, H. (2009). The construct validity of student engagement: A confirmatory factor analysis approach. Research in Higher Education, 50, 315–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lauer, T. (2004). Teaching critical thinking skills using course content material: A reversal of roles. Journal of College Science Teaching, 34(6), 34–37.Google Scholar
  22. Lizzio, A., Wilson, K., & Simons, R. (2002). University students’ perceptions of the learning environment and academic outcomes: Implications for theory and practice. Studies in Higher Education, 27, 27–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mahler, R., Draeger, J., & del Prado Hill, P. (in press) Comparing faculty and student models of academic rigor. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Educational Studies.Google Scholar
  24. McKeough, A., Lupart, J., & Marini, Q. (Eds.). (1995). Teaching for transfer: Fostering generalizations in learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  25. Meyer, M. D. E., Spencer, M., & French, T. N. (2009). The identity of a “college student”: Perceptions of college academics and academic rigor among first-year students. College Student Journal, 43, 1070–1079.Google Scholar
  26. Nordvall, R., & Braxton, J. (1996). An alternative definition of quality of undergraduate college education: Toward usable knowledge for improvement. Journal of Higher Education, 67, 483–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Parkes, J. (2001). The role of transfer in the variability of performance. Educational Assessment, 7, 143–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Payne, S., Kleine, K., Purcell, J., & Carter, G. (2005). Evaluating academic challenge beyond the NSSE. Innovative Higher Education, 30, 129–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Posner, G. J., & Gertzog, W. A. (1982). The clinical interview and the measurement of conceptual change. Science Education, 66, 195–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Prosser, M., & Trigwell, K. (1999). Understanding learning and teaching: The experience in higher education. Buckingham, England: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Sander, P., Stevenson, K., King, M., & Coates, D. (2000). University students’ expectations of teaching. Studies in Higher Education, 25, 309–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schnee, E. (2008). In the real world no one drops their standards for you: Academic rigor in a college worker education program. Equity and Excellence in Education, 41, 62–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Trigwell, K., & Prosser, M. (1991). Improving the quality of student learning: The influence of learning context and student approaches to learning on learning outcomes. Higher Education, 22, 251–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wyatt, G., Saunders, D., & Zelmer, D. (2005). Academic preparation, effort and success: A comparison of student and faculty perceptions. Educational Research Quarterly, 29(2), 29–36.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Draeger
    • 1
  • Pixita del Prado Hill
    • 1
  • Ronnie Mahler
    • 1
  1. 1.SUNY Buffalo StateBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations