Critical Thinking Note 16: What Employers Want


The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently surveyed employers on a range of educational issues including the learning outcomes employers would most like to see emphasized in the course of a college education. Here are the top five in order.

(1)  Critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills
(2)  The ability to analyze and solve complex problems
(3)  The ability to effectively communicate orally
(4)  The ability to effectively communicate in writing
(5)  The ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings

If you like statistics with your data, you can find plenty in the full report linked at the bottom of this executive summary:

Quantitative skills and knowledge about science and technology rank 10th and 11th out of the 17 outcomes on the survey. Sadly, but perhaps predictably, knowledge of the role of the US in the world, cultural diversity, civic participation, and democratic institutions and values come in at the very bottom of the list. Surely, public institutions of higher learning shouldn’t be solely concerned with what employers want from higher education. But here we’ll follow the typical trajectory for this conversation, nod sagely in agreement, and then get back to what employers want from institutions of higher education.

Clearly employers want better critical thinkers. Are we delivering? Not so much. Want some data? Look over degree requirements at BC and a typical quarter’s course schedule. We offer lots of sections of courses in writing (ranked 4th in the survey) and indeed two quarters of writing is required for every degree program on campus. We also offer lots of sections of courses in communications (ranked 3rd) and with the exception of the direct transfer associates degree, a communications course is required by just about every degree program on campus. Finally, we are currently running exactly 3 sections of Critical Thinking (ranked 1st) which is required by exactly one degree program on campus.

Hmm . . . .


Russ Payne

October 27, 2015

Leave a Reply