A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that a third of students surveyed said that they expected B’s just for attending lectures, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the required reading.
“I noticed an increased sense of entitlement in my students and wanted to discover what was causing it,” said Ellen Greenberger, the lead author of the study, called “Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors,” which appeared last year in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.
Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered another theory.
“I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”
James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “
In line with Dean Hogge’s observation are Professor Greenberger’s test results. Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade.
In one of my classes, I am rather unimpressed with my students as most of the them are failing to put in any effort whatsoever. What concerns me most seems to be a total lack of curiosity, which develops even before the students decide as to whether or not they should put any effort into an assignment. They do not seem to read and I mean read anything-- whether it is The New York Times, the books for their course, or literature. [On a side note- I did not assign a textbook this Spring because I could give them notes and readings to avoid over-paying for a text that they would not open.]
The larger issue is cultural and structural: what is the best way to prepare students for higher education so they will develop a sense of curiosity? If you developed this then I do not think that grades would be the focus.