ERIC Number: EJ861151
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 0
Expecting More: On Elevating Academic Standards in Public Universities
Stewart, Kenneth D.; Schlegel, Keith W.
Liberal Education, v95 n1 p44-49 Win 2009
If one hangs around public universities that have less than selective admissions policies, one is bound to hear a litany of complaints about today's students. They lack the attitude required for productive and serious academic work, and too many lack disciplined study habits; they have short attention spans and very little patience with academic work. Furthermore, they are too frequently devoid of self-criticism, unable to delay gratification, intellectually incurious, and unwilling to tolerate principled difference. Sadly, some can even wear ignorance as an entitled right. Many, perhaps most, faculty openly applaud high standards and privately disdain colleagues with weak standards and high grades. The academic culture encourages exactly the kind of remedy many faculty publicly advocate: setting high but attainable standards that students must struggle to meet and that result in accomplishments in which they can justly take pride. Many students, after all, desire to possess degrees and grades that testify to their intellectual courage, effort, and accomplishment; they want an education that measures more than mere accumulation of credit hours. Despite acknowledging the need to expect more of students, however, individual faculty may anticipate that implementing stronger academic standards will lead to student backlash and consequent low student evaluations, hostile commentaries on RateMyProfessor.com, embarrassing grade appeals and grievances filed through a process that demeans student and professor alike, and a lower demand for their courses that will be noted disapprovingly by chairs and deans. Insofar as personnel decisions rely upon student approval, faculty, especially those without tenure, fear disadvantage if they raise standards. In broadest terms, the general problem of declining effectiveness and repute is best addressed by institutional self-criticism and the reassertion of core values. These authors assert that it should not be the mission of a university to reassure students so they can merely continue along their comfortable paths. Rather, universities ought to test the limits of students' learning and challenge them with the realities of their academic abilities, degrees of competitiveness, and levels of motivation. Even in nonselective and poorly funded institutions, faculty, individually and collectively, can reassert the value of education by acting to raise academic standards. In this article, the authors offer a list of politically and personally difficult actions that would help accomplish that important goal.
Descriptors: Study Habits, Student Evaluation, Universities, Delay of Gratification, Criticism, Academic Standards, Values, Selective Admission, Academic Ability, Student Attitudes, Teaching Methods, College Faculty, Teacher Attitudes
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A