Student Entitlement: Key Questions and Short Answers
By: Maryellen Weimer, PhD
What is student entitlement?
“tendency to possess an expectation of academic success without taking personal responsibility for achieving that success.”
How widespread is it?
The research (and there’s not a lot) reports finding less student entitlement than faculty do.
Can a student be entitled without being rude and disruptive?
Yes. Students can have beliefs like those mentioned above and only discuss them with other students or not discuss them at all. Part of what makes entitlement challenging for teachers are those students who do verbally express the attitudes, often aggressively.
Are millennial students more entitled than previous generations? That’s another widely held assumption in the academic community, but support from research is indirect and inconsistent.
Is entitlement something that only happens in the academic environment? No, it has been studied, written about, and observed in other contexts (like work environments
What’s causing it?
A number think it’s the result of previous educational experiences and/or grade inflation. Some blame technology that gives students greater access to teachers and the expectation of immediate responses. Fairly regularly, student evaluations are blamed for the anonymous power and control they give students. And finally, there’s the rise in consumerism that’s now associated with education. Students (and their parents) pay (usually a lot) for college and the sense that those tuition dollars entitle them to certain things, is generally not what teachers think education entitles learners to receive.
How should teachers respond?
It helps if teachers clarify their expectations with constructive positive language and even more importantly with discussions of the rationales on which those expectations rest. Teacher authority gets most students to follow the rules, but force doesn’t generally change attitudes and those are what need to be fixed in this case.
October 18 for Student Entitlement: Truth, Fiction, or Some of Both and stay tuned for more in-depth information and resources that we’ll make available in Faculty Focus Premium in subsequent weeks.
References: Elias, R. Z. (2017). Academic entitlement and its relationship to cheating ethics. Journal of Education for Business, 92 (4), 194-199.
Greenberger, E., et. al. (2008). Self-entitled college students: Contributions of personality, parenting and motivational factors. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 37, 1193-1204.
Responding to Disruptive Students
Draw a map of your classroom, including doors, windows, desks, blackboards—all significant items and areas. I’m sure you’ve already got a clear idea of where the most challenging students usually sit. Now imagine teaching class on a regular day. Trace the paths you usually take across the room. Do you sometimes speed up for a particular reason?
Now put your breathing on the map. Are you conscious of the way you breathe during class? Use a new color and draw a wavy line on top of the lines and arrows you’ve already sketched. Does the wavy line look even, or have you drawn some chaotic or nervous zigzags? Could it be that you’ve sometimes forgotten to breathe?