The Direct Network

The Winter of Students’ Discontent

Posted by Liz Schulte on Sep 27, 2017 5:30:00 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, Learning skills, student behavior

Bill Gates didn’t graduate college. Neither did Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Frank Lloyd Wright and the list can go on with the names of highly innovative, creative and intelligent individuals.

The Winter of Students' DiscontentA plethora of examples can be given from world leaders to people who have changed the fabric of our lives, but we view them as exceptions to the rule. Going to college gives students a foundation to begin their lives. It is important they study hard and make good grades. Right?

What makes a successful student? Most students measure their achievement by the grade they are given. That’s what they have been trained to do. Being given an “easy A” makes them a more successful student than receiving an earned C in which they learned something. The letter has a meaning that the rest of the world will fail to recognize as important upon graduation.

In recent research, the relationship between students’ passion and success was compared. The study that spread over 72 countries found there was no direct correlation between students’ attitude about school and their overall performance. A good student could view attending school as a necessary task or as preparing them for the rest of their life. It makes no difference to how they perform.

The PISA assessment uses these options to measure students’ attitudes:

  • School has done little to prepare me for adult life when I leave school
  • School has been a waste of time
  • School helped give me confidence to make decisions
  • School has taught me things that could be useful in a job

The results on the surface seem shocking. How can the students who are excited about school not be performing better? Doesn’t that go against what we think we know? Perhaps, the problem isn’t the students’ view as much as the way success is measured. What if the people mentioned above aren’t the exception to the rule? Maybe the rule is wrong.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was passionate about learning, not receiving A’s, and I would be willing to guess so were many of the people mentioned in the opening paragraph. There is a difference between students who are driven to receive the highest grade and the students who embrace the education for the sake of knowledge — yet grade achievement is celebrated and learning isn’t.

When student success is measured simply by a GPA, it isn’t hard to imagine that the correlation doesn’t exist. After all, a student who simply wants the best grades may find that they aren’t prepared for adult life where performance is more than academic, school might feel like a waste of time because they aren’t retaining information which means they are taking very little with them to apply to a career and that would definitely effect their confidence.

While dispassionate students might be on an equal playing field with passionate learners during their education, their career success will tell a different story.

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About Liz Schulte

Liz Schulte is an author and business owner with a background in customer service, marketing and higher education development.

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