Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes

Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland. “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.”

I never had that trouble.

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement. “I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

An A was something to shoot for, not expect.

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.

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.

Jason Greenwood, a senior kinesiology major at the University of Maryland echoed that view. “I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”


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