Todd M. Davis and Patricia Hillman Murrell
ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education
scholarship has emphasized the importance of student effort and involvement in
their academic and co-curricular activities as the decisive elements in promoting
positive college outcomes. As colleges have struggled to extend opportunities,
an accompanying expectation for students to assume responsibility for their own
education often has been lacking. Institutions must work to create a climate in
which all students feel welcome and able to fully participate. It is equally important
to nurture an ethic that demands student commitment and promotes student responsibility.
Students can contribute to their own learning and to the development of a campus
climate in which all can grow and learn.
IS STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY?
are learning communities, and individuals accepted into these communities have
the privileges and responsibilities of membership. If we are to communicate our
expectations, we must offer a set of standards and examples that moves our discussion
from generality to practice. Robert Pace has offered such a set of standards and
has embedded them in the College Student Experience Questionnaire (CSEQ).
The CSEQ is based
on the proposition that all learning and development requires an investment of
time and effort by the student. At the heart of the CSEQ is a set of scales which
defines the dimensions of student responsibility. These scales are called "Quality
of Effort" scales in that they assess the degree to which students are extending
themselves in their college activities. The domains include the use of classrooms,
libraries, residence halls, student unions, athletic facilities, laboratories,
and studios and galleries. The social dimension is reflected in scales that tap
contacts with faculty, informal student friendships, clubs and organizations,
and student conversations. Pace's work gives the academic community a map of the
terrain of student responsibility and suggests concrete activities that contribute
directly to student growth and learning.
IS STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY IMPORTANT?
student responsibility is the key to all development and learning. Research has
demonstrated that college outcomes are tied to the effort that students put into
their work and the degree to which they are involved with their studies and campus
life. Second, irresponsible students diminish our collective academic life. Within
an individual classroom, the behavior of even a few highly irresponsible students
or, worse, a large number of passive, disaffected students can drag a class down
to its lowest common denominator. For an institution, the erosion of an academic
ethos can lead to a culture that is stagnant, divisive, and anti-intellectual.
Third, the habits
of responsible civic and personal life are sharpened and refined in college. Will
employers, international economic competitors, or future history itself be tolerant
of students who fail to develop sufficient self-control and initiative to study
for tests or participate in academic life? Finally, if colleges are to reclaim
the public trust, they must learn not to make promises that cannot be kept. Colleges
have responsibilities to students and society. Yet, colleges are not solely responsible
for the outcomes of their students. A clear acknowledgment of the mutual obligations
of all members of the academic community is a prerequisite to restoring the academy's
balance and clarity of purpose.
ARE THE FOUNDATIONS OF STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY?
Pace, Tinto, Pascarella, and Astin have offered explicit theories about how colleges
can promote student learning and growth. Despite different uses of terms, these
approaches have much in common. First, each theorist recognizes that the student's
background plays a role in shaping college outcomes. This role is largely indirect
and is moderated by the college environment and a student's interactions with
faculty and peers. Second, each theorist sees the campus environment exerting
an enabling effect on college outcomes. Last, all emphasize the importance of
a partnership between the college and the student. Colleges alone cannot "produce"
student learning. Colleges provide opportunities for interaction and involvement
and establish a climate conducive to responsible participation. Each approach
reflects the centrality of what we call student responsibility.
body of research derived from the work of these theorists represents one of the
strongest and most sustained accounts of what it takes to succeed in college.
The review indicates that the effects of initial group differences on college
outcomes are relatively slight and largely mediated by the manner in which the
student engages the college experience. Generally, college students appear more
alike than different. The college context has two elements: 1) the structural
features of the organization and 2) the climate or "ethos."
features that tend to isolate students and promote an ethos of anonymity produce
poor college outcomes. College climates characterized by a strong sense of direction
and which build student involvement tend to promote favorable outcomes by promoting
student-faculty and student-peer relations, as well as establishing an expectation
that students will behave responsibly. Finally, the decisive single factor in
affecting college outcomes is the degree to which students are integrated into
the life of the campus, interact with faculty and peers, and are involved in their
WE ENCOURAGE RESPONSIBLE STUDENT BEHAVIOR?
policies and practices must be oriented toward developing a climate in which students'
responsibility for, and active participation in, their own collegiate experience
are promoted. Policies that stress the importance of student achievement and in-class
and co-curricular challenge and support are essential for student growth. The
institutional culture clearly must convey the institution's purpose in an unambiguous
manner, and the ethos of the campus must be one in which students believe they
are members of a larger community. As student culture serves as a filter for students
entering college, care must be taken to ensure that students who are prepared
inadequately, understand the nature of college life and what is expected to attain
satisfactory academic and developmental gains.
human environments must be built in which students and faculty collectively can
engage in the process of teaching and learning. As learning is the process through
which development occurs, it is crucial for students to be actively engaged in
the classroom. Course activities are the vehicle through which students may become
more fully engaged with academic material. The literature clearly indicates that
the quality of effort that a student expends in interactions with peers and faculty
is the single most important determinant in college outcomes.
report concludes with a call for a new relationship between our institutions of
higher learning and our students. A genuine shared purpose among all members of
the higher education community can be created by recoupling individual rights
with a sense of personal and social responsibility around issues of teaching and
learning. The work of Pace is a good place at which to begin thinking about the
renewal of our intellectual community. As Pace reminds us, all learning is the
mutual responsibility of students, faculty, and administrators. Student responsibility
doesn't just happen. We must expect it, foster it, and nurture it. Pace is a good
place at which to begin thinking about the renewal of our intellectual community.
As Pace reminds us, all learning is the mutual responsibility of students, faculty,
and administrators. Student responsibility doesn't just happen. We must expect
it, foster it, and nurture it.
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J. Schuh, E. Whitt and Associates. 1991. Involving Colleges. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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ERIC digest (ED372702, 1994).
Sponsoring Agency: Office of Educational Research and Improvement (ED), U.S. Department
of Education, Washington, DC. Contract No: RR93002008
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