Making Expectations Explicit

How do we instill in students the goals of academic pursuit of knowledge and the idea of quality work as opposed to effort? Current research suggests that students come to college with an "increased sense of entitlement" that warps their expectations, often leading to their belief that simply by attending lectures and completing readings that they deserve to receive a B--or even an A-- in any given course (Roosevelt, 2009). 

Best Practices for Addressing Student Expectations:

  • During the first week of class, ask the students to take a brief survey outlining their expectations for the course.
    • Address their expectations, establishing course expectations and how they match students' perceptions.
  • Provide students will a listing of goals and expectations at the beginning of each course can be a helpful way to establish the standards expected for course success.
  • Share grading rubrics with students before each assignment so they have a concrete idea of the expectations and standards of performance.
  • Throughout the course, share with students the importance and relevance of information as it relates to the discipline. This type of reflection helps students understand the need to master content rather than simply read about it.
  • At several points during the semester, request feedback from students to determine if their expectations are being challenged. Address these perceptions periodically throughout the course rather than waiting until the end and awarding grades that students may question.
  • Reflect on students' course evaluation comments to determine the actual source of any complaints (i.e.: Could the professor have made the expectations clearer? Did the student input the expected amount of effort? Was the effort measured in a way that students' understood?).
Additional Best Practices for Online Courses:
  • Send information to students before the class begins describing pedagogical, technical and community expectations.
    • Include links to readiness surveys that might help students focus more clearly on their motivation and organization skills.
  • Include information on how and when students should communicate.
  • State the standard for how much time students are expected to spend on course-related assignments each week. 
  • Work to establish a community of learners that can help reinforce course expectations and standards.

Resources:
Boettcher, J. (2010) Designing for learning: Teaching online for the first time--The quick guide. Revised: February 10, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tenbest.html

Moore, M., Moore R.S.,  &  McDonald, R. (2008). Student characteristics and expectations of university classes: a free elicitation approach. College Student Journal. March 2008. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCR/is_1_42/ai_n25124431/
 
Roosevelt, M. (2009). Students' expectations seen as causing grade disputes. New York Times. February 17, 2009. Retrieved from  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/education/18college.html