Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Date of this Version



Essays on Teaching Excellence" Toward the Best in the Academy (1994-1995) 6(7)

A publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Copyright 1995, Bette LaSere Erickson. Used by permission


In preparing to write Teaching College Freshmen, we heard negative sentiments echoed many times. Faculty complained about students' lack of motivation, their neglect of their studies, and their refusal to assume any responsibility for their learning. At the same time, freshmen told us the pace in most courses was far beyond them, it was not humanly possible to do all the work, they frequently felt overwhelmed, and their professors seemed neither to notice nor to care whether or not they learned.

What sense are we to make of these conflicting stories? For starters, freshman descriptions of "humanly impossible" work loads make more sense if one considers them in the context of their previous study practices. According to the 1993 national survey of incoming freshmen, only a third said they had spent six or more hours per week studying or doing homework during the previous year (Fact File, 1993). Freshmen expect, of course, to study more in college, and most apparently do. Surveys of our students are consistent with Moffatt's (1989) estimates that most freshmen study about two hours a night or about one hour outside class for each hour in class--more than double the hours they studied in high school, but less than half the time most faculty expect.