Monday, 29 July 2019

Why you've had to dumb down your syllabus

From the latest issue of Intelligence:
We examined trends over time in vocabulary, a key component of verbal intelligence, in the nationally representative General Social Survey of U.S. adults (n = 29,912). Participants answered multiple-choice questions about the definitions of 10 specific words. When controlled for educational attainment, the vocabulary of the average U.S. adult declined between the mid-1970s and the 2010s. Vocabulary declined across all levels of educational attainment (less than high school, high school or 2-year college graduate, bachelor's or graduate degree), with the largest declines among those with a bachelor's or graduate degree. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses separating the effects of age, time period, and cohort suggest that the decline is primarily a time period effect. Increasing educational attainment has apparently not improved verbal ability among Americans. Instead, as educational attainment has increased, those at each educational level are less verbally skilled even though the vocabulary skills of the whole population are unchanged.
Vocabulary skills of the whole population are unchanged. As more people go to university, the average vocabulary skills of the college-educated go down - those going to uni who otherwise wouldn't have gone to uni aren't picking up more words.

There are consequences of this for the quality of university education for those who would have gone to university during the prior era.

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