Thursday, February 19, 2009

The New York Times Reports on Education

This story from The New York Times has been widely discussed but not here, until now.
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.

8 comments:

The Roof Almighty said...

Scantron testing and Powerpoint presentations.

The Roof Almighty said...

Sarcasm aside:

Harrogate and I have bben talking about this since...2005? Since Hurricane Rita came through?

My read on the situation (and I noticed it first at a Community College, and then later at the "real" University we all frequented) is not that they have no curiosity, as a whole, but that they have been taught not to communicate it with the world.

The freedom to write "I believe" essays FLOORS them-- too bad that I spend all semester trying to break them of their habit.

I have an assignment which prompts them to evaluate a hobby or pastime against an outside observer who doesn't understand the hobby's appeal (how do you explain fantasy footbal drafts to a girl, a "real" sports fan, or ME? How do you defend reading comics to a literature teacher?).

Every semester, I have to pull teeth to get several students to admit to liking ANYTHING. I still alwayys end up with the odd "I like playing baseball" or "I like action movies" which commit only to strict normality.

My hypothesis for a long time was that it was the internet's "Everything SUX0RS, f4g0t!" / "Everything 4u13$, n00b!" dichotomy. But I'm thinking more an more that it is wider than netiquette or No Child Left Behind.

Somehow, I blame Cheney for this.

solon said...

Is this the problem of an other-directed society (David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd) where individuals are more concerned about friends than developing their own talents?

I suppose this make sense to some degree. But I am not sure if I like the implications....

The Roof Almighty said...

I would be more likely to say that this is a side-effect/correlation of the same force that is extending OUR behaving like twenty-somethings well into our thirties.

I don't see the problem (to anywhere the same degree) in upper division classes, nor in accelerated honors courses.

I have to wonder if these Freshpersons are over-protected and under-developed. They won't admit to watching anything in particular on TV, nor going to the movies at all, nor, generally, preferring one thing over another. That isn't talents. That's individuality. They are scared of it.

I'm being vague because I realize that my grasp on this comes damn near close to that of those who worry about the effects of a nanny state.

I'm not kidding about Cheney being a spider in this web. I worry that this is symptom one of the Child Molester State, where everyone is afraid to blossom because the swellings of their personality-bumps will make them a target.

The Roof Almighty said...

...to beat the shit out of several dead metaphorses.

p-duck said...

The shift in describing 203 as an "inquiry" course seems relevant here. The rhetorical change in the description of the class pushes student-initiated research and learning; in part, pushing the responsibility on "making" a good grade the student's responsibility. I'd been ambivalent about the rhetorical changes in the standard syllabus until having read the Times piece. In light of the article, the change seems important.

Supadiscomama said...

I shared this article with my Intro to Lit class, and the vast majority of students reacted with disdain--assigning such attitudes to "other students." One brave soul admitted that, "if it worked," he would absolutely argue for a higher grade based on effort. I actually had a student last semester emailing me with that exact argument. He claimed that he had "really improved" over the course of the semester, so he "deserved" an A. This student earned a B. I was quite irritated.

The article did prove wrong my theory that students would not make such requests of, say, a 50-year-old male professor (as opposed to a young-ish female grad student). I'm not sure if I'm relieved or not...

The Roof Almighty said...

I make two arguments to my 104/203/210/301 classes:

1) No one actually cares what you "believe" or "think": and the evidence of this is that you yourself don't care what other people believe.

2) "Deserve" is a word used by people who want something but know that they haven't earned it.

I mean these, and offer these, as advice toward how they should phrase their arguments, but man do I hate those three words in all aspects.

And Supadisco, I wonder if it is just now accelerating to the point that greybeards are seeing it where as you fragile gazelles in the women's auxiliary have been prey for a while now. Like I said, I've been blue sky-ing this for 4 years, and I'm just some dude in Texas and I don't think I taught patient zero on this problem.