From an article in yesterday's New York Times on college students' expectations:
Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.The Times also quotes Ellen Greenberger, professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California-Irvine, and lead author of "Self-Entitled College Students: Contributions of Personality, Parenting, and Motivational Factors," a study exploring "AE" (academic entitlement), published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence in 2008.
"Many students come in with the conviction that they've worked hard and deserve a higher mark," Professor Grossman said. "Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before."
He attributes those complaints to his students' sense of entitlement.
I spent some time this afternoon looking at this study. Surveying 466 undergrads, Greenberger and her co-authors found 66.2% agreeing (i.e., slightly agreeing, agreeing, or strongly agreeing) with this statement: "If I have explained to my professor that I am trying hard, I think he/she should give me some consideration with respect to my course grade." 40.7% agreed that "If I have completed most of the reading for a class, I deserve a B in that course." 34.1% thought that simply attending "most classes for a course" merited that B. And 29.9% agreed that "Professors who won't let me take an exam at a different time because of my personal plans (e.g. a vacation or other trip that is important to me) are too strict." I've chosen these four revealing bits from a list of fifteen AE items that students were asked to evaluate. Another finding: students with a strong sense of AE report parents who give material rewards for good grades and compare their children's achievements with those of other children.
The AE attitudes revealed in this survey are likely to be familiar to anyone involved in American higher education, and they can make the project of maintaining teacherly integrity quite difficult. Indeed, much of what constitutes a professor's work every semester can be the ongoing effort to undo such attitudes, by asking more of students and by attempting to persuade students that they're capable of more. It doesn't always work. For many students, the ideal prof might be summed up in the word out: one who lets the class out early — always!, and who's ready to "help out" with some, uhh, consideration, as described above.
Think for a moment about the model of learning built into the idea of being "let out early" — as if the classroom were a prison, the professor a stern or genial warden. Your parole has come through! Have a great weekend!