How to Productively Manage Student Entitlement

An issue that often arises in the classroom centers on student entitlement. Maryellen Weimer, Ph.D., noted in this week’s “Faculty Focus” newsletter, “Maybe the advice is missing because confronting entitled perspectives is challenging. If a student wants to take the exam at a later date so he can attend Grandma’s 90thbirthday celebration, or if the objection to phone usage during class is answered with, “I paid for this course—what I do in it is my business”—the faculty member can say no or can cause the student to incur some consequences. Although those actions may take care of the immediate issue, they probably won’t change the student’s attitude. Rather, the student is more likely to conclude that the faculty member is difficult, or more jocularly, a jerk.”

Weimer suggests a two-prong approach to entitlement.

1. Teachers should clarify their expectations at the beginning of the course and in the syllabus, and provide reminders as needed. “Grades are not curved in this class.” “Students with borderline grades are not bumped up.” “Exams are taken the days they are scheduled.” “Late homework gets feedback but no credit.”

2. A second preventative approach involves having a conversation about entitlement before it’s expressed. Do students know what it is? Are the attitudes ones they hold?

She concludes, “Is persuading students a reasonable goal for conversations about entitlement? Probably not for one conversation, but if the message is consistently delivered by multiple teachers and across the institution, then we’ll start seeing progress.”

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