May 3rd 2010 at 11:00am, By Dave Guerin
US economics researchers have found that students have decreased study time from 40 hours per week in 1961 to 27 hours per week in 2003 (a 32.5% decline). The authors, Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks, apparently controlled for hours worked, study period (completion in four years) and student body makeup. The abstract for the NBER paper is here, but the fulltext is paid content (I’ll review the paper itself in the next few days, but today I’ll focus on the headline item).
I thought I’d compare it with NZ. The 2008 Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE), run by the Australian Council for Education Research, includes NZ and Australian institutions and has some figures on the time students spend preparing for class (p.70). I calculated a mean by multiplying the mid-range value by the percentage of respondents and averaging the total to get 10.25 hours. If you added 12-16 hours of contact time/week in a university setting, you would get close to the US 2003 result. Not a perfect analysis, but it’s in the ballpark, especially since it covers full and part-time students, whereas the US figure is only for full-time students.
Next, I wondered if 10 minutes of historical analysis could help me create a 1960s comparison figure for NZ (no, it took 25…). I went to the vast ED library (about 400 NZ education books) and found JJ Small’s1966 book on Achievement and Adjustment in the First Year of the University (published by NZCER) – I think the research was done in 1965. It had a similar question to the AUSSE survey on estimated hours of private study, again using full and part time students (p.30), Using the same method as above, I came up with a mean of 19.0 hours, meaning that there is a decline of 8.75 hours to the 10.25 hours in AUSSE (a 46% decline).
Using my quick assessment, it looks like we have had a decline in private study hours in NZ that is similar to the US total study time figures (well, the NZ decline is higher).
Going back to what this all means, I found the story at The Chronicle of Higher Education and there were some interesting arguments in the text and, especially, in the comments. (NB the US study controlled for several factors, including hours of employment – my estimates don’t control for anything.)
So, I’ll open it up to your theories, be they erudite or bigoted, as Gordon Brown would say.