How to Understand Changing Profile of College Students

“After more than fifteen years of university teaching, I found that students had become increasingly confusing to me. Why don’t undergraduates ever drop by for my office hours unless they are in dire trouble in a course? Why don’t they respond to my (generous) invitations to do out-of-class research under my guidance? How could some of my students never take a note during my big lecture class? And what about those students who bring whole meals and eat and drink during class? Or those other students who seem to feel absolutely no embarrassment in putting their head or their feet on their desk and taking a nap during class?

I found myself laughing along with Carolyn Segal’s tongue-in-cheek article about student excuses for late work and missed classes, including the ubiquitous “my roommate was throwing up blood”. I saw considerable truth in another published lament by a Duke University professor, who questioned the quality of undergraduate education even at his elite institution.

I began to notice my own and colleagues’ discourse as we continually tried to make sense of what seemed bizarre behavior. Were we like that? Are students today different? Doesn’t it seem like they are… cheating more? Ruder? Less motivated? More stepped in their own sense of entitlement? Why is the experience of leading class discussions sometimes like pulling teeth? Why won’t my students read the assigned readings so we can have a decent class discussion? The list goes on, despite the fact that we had other stories, too, of students hungry to learn, of “aha!” experiences, and of letters of thanks that arrived two years after a course ended.” (Nathan, 2005, p.2)

Do you agree or disagree with the above excerpt taken from Nathan’s book “My Freshman Year”? Why do you agree / disagree? Please log in to leave your comments.