University students want marks for ‘trying’
Most university students believe that if they are “trying hard,” a professor should consider increasing their grade.
One-third say that if they attend most of the classes for a course, they deserve at least a B, while almost one-quarter “think poorly” of professors who do not reply to e-mails the same day they are sent.
Those are among the revelations in a new study examin- ing students’ sense of academic entitlement — the mentality that enrolling in post-secondary education is akin to shopping in a store where the customer is always right.
The paper describes academic entitlement as “expectations of high marks for modest effort and demanding attitudes toward teachers.”
It’s a hot topic — and source of much frustration — among instructors, says author Ellen Greenberger.
November issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
Technology may encourage some of this demanding student behaviour because e-mail is quick, provides easy access to professors and opens the door to a less formal and respectful tone, she said.
“In-person communication obliges you to look the person in the eye as you’re about to say, ‘You really ought to give me a B because I came to most of the classes.’ ” she said. “Try saying that face-to-face.”
However, professors may well be guilty of the same impertinence in e-mails to their students, she said.
Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University who has witnessed this behaviour in his own students, blames it largely on the self-esteem movement that ties evaluation of work with personal judgment.
“If I give a student aB or a B-minus or a C — God forbid — I have to explain to them, because they haven’t learned it in elementary school, that I’m not evaluating their personality and I’m not even evaluating work they intended to do,” he said. “I’m evaluating the work they submitted and it’s not personal.”
He sees the roots of this in his own children’s elementary school, where spelling is sometimes not corrected for fear of squelching students’ creativity, and walls are adorned with grammatically incorrect work.
The “consumer revolution” has also convinced some students that universities and professors are service providers, Mr. Troy said. Both he and Ms. Greenberger believe anonymous student course evaluations have fuelled this and left some professors capitulating to student pressure because evaluations can be tied to tenure and advancement.