On Friday, the CBC released this article NSCC instructor frustrated with ‘entitled’ students and since then, I’ve seen it make the rounds on social media. I’m always leery of articles that make a sweeping generalization about a group of people and especially about the current generation of students so my curiosity was piqued.
The article discusses one instructor’s disappointment with the lack of work ethic and task completion she is finding in her current college courses and I can empathize. Some days it can be really tough to motivate students to complete class work regardless of how interesting the content is or engaging the method in which it is delivered. There are a variety of reasons why students don’t complete tasks and from an instructional standpoint, it is really frustrating.
However, I find it so aggravating that yet again, this current generation is being labelled as “coddled” or “entitled.” When you spend time talking with these students, you will find that overall, these students are passionate (about their own interests which don’t always line up with school), innovative, creative, understanding, and accepting. I have been teaching for ten years and so many of the students I’ve taught in the past few years inspire me. I’m constantly impressed with how interesting students are and their ideas about how to enhance the world even if they don’t always finish their tasks at school. I also think that many of them also see school as a series of hoops rather than actual learning, and not all of them are “willing to play the game.”
The other component of the article that I find frustrating is that the instructor in the article puts the blame for this on high school teachers. I often criticize how high schools are “factory models” of education, but many post secondary institutions are far more archaic when it comes to learning. My experience with university was that learning was seen as a linear progression; however, that is not true for me. My brain is constantly making connections like a web and I found lectures, multiple choice exams, and essays did not connect to my style of thinking.
The research also suggests that learning happens at a multitude of paces and is different for every person. Having a hard deadline then taking grades off doesn’t encourage learning – it’s just punitive. I understand the frustration of this instructor and the many others who share her sentiments, and I know that in the “real world” there are often deadlines, but that is not about learning. That’s performing and we are in the business of learning.
With all this said, I don’t think there is an answer and it’s something I’m struggling with every day, but rather than blame a generation of students, high school teachers, or parents, I think we need to dig deeper. We need to start asking ourselves what is really important about learning and how can we encourage our students to be motivated and empowered about their learning journey. Blame is not the answer.