Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Academic Entitlement in the Context of Learning Styles

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Academic Entitlement in the Context of Learning Styles

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over the past decade, there has been increased media coverage regarding declining student engagement along with high levels of entitlement in academic settings. These communications often assert that students expect high grades even with minimal work (c.f. Associated Press, 2007; CBC, 2007) and that current generation(s) of students have higher levels of academic entitlement than previous cohorts. For example, the work of Greenberger et al. (2008) found that 40% of university students believe that they deserve a B-grade for completing most of the required readings for a course, and 35% of students believe that they deserve a B-grade for attending most of the course lectures. This work was cited in a New York Times article as evidence for rising levels of student entitlement (Roosevelt, 2009).

Considerable discussion has been generated by such claims. One concern is that little historical data exists on which to make comparative assessments (Weber, 2009). Also, in most cases, discussions of student expectations are not contextualized within broader changes in society. Indeed, insights garnered from studies of student populations may be reflective of changes in society in general, rather than speaking to the unique traits of students. For example, Oberlin (2009) notes that instructors may have a sense of entitlement themselves, feeling deserved of respect and having specific expectations of what students should get out of their courses. Within the context of changing social and cultural norms, increased individualism, rapidly increasing technological advances, increased competition for scholarships, employment, and changing expectations regarding the role of post-secondary education, student attitudes and behaviours may be a reflection of changing societal attitudes and behaviours (Trzesniewski et al., 2008a; Lippman et al., 2009). As well, some of these changes are not necessarily negative, as students are also reporting higher levels of self-esteem, feelings of self-worth, and overall well-being (Arnett, 2007; Coates & Morrison, 2011).

Apart from the debate over changing levels of academic entitlement, there is the more basic issue of how to measure this construct, and the more important question of how sense of entitlement intersects with learning. While the amount of rigorous scholarship on students' sense of entitlement is growing, it is still limited. The current project contributes to the ongoing discussion about post-secondary students' sense of entitlement, by reporting and interpreting the findings of a survey conducted at a large, public university in Canada. The specific objectives of the study are to develop a questionnaire instrument that adequately captures the construct of academic entitlement as well as three approaches to learning that are discussed in the academic literature, namely deep, surface, and strategic learning; and to explore the intersection of academic entitlement with learning approaches.

Research Context

Sense of Entitlement

In the educational context, entitlement can be defined as the "tendency to possess an expectation of academic success without taking personal responsibility for achieving that success" (Chowning & Campbell, 2009, p. 982). In the recent book Campus Confidential, Coates and Morrison (2011) argue that students "expect material well-being and an easy passage through school, university, and work...they often expect deadlines to be altered, want their explanations accepted without confirmation, and try to insist that course requirements fit their availability to do work" (p. 113). These types of assertions, however, have a tendency to be based on illustrative examples and anecdotes.

Measuring academic entitlement and changes over time is not easy. Using the entitlement subscale in the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), for example, Twenge et al. (2008) argue that there have been significant increases in narcissism and entitlement among student populations over the past thirty years, terming students born in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s "generation me". …

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