Report: College student “entitlement” leads to reduced student effort, confrontations with instructors

From a post at the Ed Week blog Inside School Research:

Students’ sense of academic entitlement can reduce their effort in class and lead to irritating (or even aggressive) confrontations with teachers, according to research by Tracey E. Zinn, a psychology associate professor at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. Moreover, teachers may be unintentionally feeding that sense of entitlement, she said at the Association for Psychological Science conference here this weekend…

There were a few clear symptoms of a student developing a sense of entitlement, including the beliefs that:

• Knowledge is a “right” that should be delivered with little effort or discomfort on the student’s part;
• A high grade should come, not from mastery of material, but in return for non-academic aspects of education, such as the student showing up to class, or the student or her family paying tuition or taxes which go to the teacher’s salary; and
• If a student didn’t perform well on a test, it is a sign that the test was too difficult, not that the student did not understand the material.

Zinn and her colleagues found that students that scored high on an assessment of academic entitlement were less able to regulate their own learning and had less sense of control. Moreover, students with a high sense of entitlement were found to have a history of “executive” help-seeking—for example, asking, “Can you tell me the right answer?”—while students with a low sense of entitlement were more likely to have sought “instrumental” help, i.e., asking “Can you help me understand this concept?”



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