ERIC Identifier: ED372702
Publication Date: 1994-08-00
Author: Davis, Todd M. - Murrell, Patricia Hillman
ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.| George
Washington Univ. Washington DC. School of Education and Human Development.
Turning Teaching into Learning. The Role of Student
Responsibility in the Collegiate Experience. ERIC Digest.
Recent 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
WHAT IS STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY?
Colleges 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
WHY IS STUDENT RESPONSIBILITY IMPORTANT?
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.
WHAT ARE THE FOUNDATIONS OF STUDENT
Professors 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.
The 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."
Structural 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 studies.
HOW CAN WE ENCOURAGE RESPONSIBLE STUDENT
Institutional 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.
Small-scale, 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.
This 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
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