Sunday, February 22, 2009

Students Feel Entitled to High Grades

The New York Times recently reported on a study completed at the University of California-Irvine, which found that students feel entitled to high grades if they work hard, regardless of how well they performed on exams and assigned work. According to the study, "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." Also, two-thirds of students thought that if they explained to a professor that they tried real hard, the professor should take that into account when assigning their grade.

I have encountered students like this before. Just last month I had two students come and tell me they were going to appeal their grade. When I asked them why, they said they studied real hard and thought they deserved a higher grade as a result. That was the entire basis of their appeal. Before reading this article, I thought that these students were a minority. To think that they might be a majority (assuming results at UC-Irvine are generalizable to all students), is shocking. If this is how grades should be assigned, then why not have every test be a single question, "how hard did you work?," and let students assign their own grade.

The possible reasons for this sense of entitlement, according to the report, are parental pressure, competition among peers, and achievement anxiety. Political Science Professor Chris Blattman provides another explanation on his blog:

I have a different theory why students have such expectations: because it's true. Most professors do give them a B just for showing up.

I think grade inflation is all a bit ridiculous, but this is not a war an untenured faculty member is wise to wage.

Besides, you think this is bad, you should see what top schools let the PhD students get away with...


Mel said...

The other reason for this sense of entitlement is that we society have led them to believe we are all winners.

Anonymous said...

I also considered appealing my grade, but I assure you, it was for other reasons.

Skydaemon said...

I'd suggest that part of it is because higher education isn't about learning for most students, it's about punching their "education ticket" on their CV. Who cares if you can do all that stuff as long as you get the piece of paper and have a gpa that doesn't disqualify you for further study if you need it.

They're just gaming the system the same way schools game magazine rankings.