Seniors’ study habits revealed

College students hit books harder than professors think

Maybe college professors ought to give their students a little more credit.

A report suggests seniors spend a lot more time preparing for class than their instructors think they do. Some majors, including engineering and nursing, actually study more than their professors expect.

Findings are part of an annual report released by the National Survey of Student Engagement, a higher education research center based at Indiana University-Bloomington. The report includes findings of a national survey of 285,000 freshmen and seniors attending 546 four-year colleges and universities, and subsets of students who were asked additional questions.

Average study times reported by full-time students remained similar to past years: Freshmen reported nearly 15 hours a week and seniors about a half-hour more. The survey also found:

Freshmen reporting grades of A or A- studied about four hours more per week than their peers earning a C+ or lower.

Students enrolled in distance-education courses spent about one hour more per week preparing for class than their campus-based counterparts.

Women spent more time per week studying than men – by an hour among freshmen and about 40 minutes among seniors.

A smaller survey of 6,516 seniors, along with a similar survey of 1,549 professors, at 31 campuses revealed the mismatch between faculty perceptions, their expectations and student reports.

Other research has shown that today’s students spend fewer hours hitting the books than their parents did, but what strikes survey director Alexander McCormick is that faculty also appear to expect less from students than they have in the past.

Gone, he says, is the conventional wisdom that students should spend two hours studying for every hour spent in class. The survey finds faculty expectations are “pretty close to what students say they are doing,” he says.

A professor himself, McCormick says he’s not surprised by the perceptual differences.

“If you’d asked Aristotle and Plato if their students were studying enough they would probably say no,” he says. “Some of this is probably just that faculty are never satisfied with the amount of the work their students are doing.”

© 2012 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story