October 07, 2010

Who is Responsible for Student Learning?

new janisBy Janis Prince Inniss

Exactly how far do students expect their instructor to go to help them get it? How far should we go to help students learn? And is it true that you can lead a horse to water, but not make it drink?

The students who stand out to me as a teacher are those at either end of an achievement continuum: those who excel and those who passively take up space in the classroom. For the purposes of this discussion, I will overlook those in the middle.

At one end of the continuum are those students who do everything they can to do well; they excel—I’ll call them the Excel Students. They don’t just want their teachers to give them a good grade; they understand that their effort is tied to the grades they earn.

The Excel Students read all assignments, do their homework, and follow every suggestion teachers make about how to succeed in class. For example, in my statistics classes, Excel Students take to heart the tailored suggestions I made about how to achieve success. That means that when I teach a new concept, they already have a good idea about the topic and can respond to simple questions I pose to the class, because they have read ahead. Excel Students will ask teachers for additional work, just to test their mastery over the material!

clip_image002Like proverbial birds of a feather, Excel Students flock together. They study together. They explain concepts to each other. Those in statistics classes work on problems together. When one has trouble coming up with a solution, another in the group chimes in and explains the correct method; teaching, of course, deepens that student’s understanding of the concept. Excel Students expect to get 100% on tests and papers. And when they don’t, they ask me where they went wrong; Excel Students thirst for knowledge and are anxious to know what they don’t know. They may apologize for asking many questions, but these are the students who utilize my office hours and willingness to assist them by email and telephone. Impression management is not their motivation, but Excel Students can’t help but impress teachers. Often former Excel Students ourselves, many teachers love Excel Students.

clip_image004At the other end of the continuum are Passive Students. These are not students concerned about impression management! On learning, their demeanor says, “I’ll pass!” These students sleep in class. They text, engage with Facebook and other social networking sites—all during class. Passive Students do not prepare for class by reading nor are they likely to respond to teacher questions of the class. Unlike Excel Students, their hands don’t shoot up when I ask, “Any questions?” And even if they’re clueless about material being presented, Passive Students don’t ask questions to help themselves. Passive Students never come to my office during office hours. They never send me a note asking about their abyssal scores on tests and papers. In fact, Passive Students miss assignments with nary an explanation; they take a zero quite easily while Excel Students worry about scoring 96% on an assignment! Passive Students don’t seem to care what grades they earn.

Clearly, Excel Students are, in many ways, gratifying for teachers. But where do my responsibilities lie with engaging a Passive Student? How far should I go to try to engage a student who displays these behaviors? First, how would I speak with a Passive Student? Should I ask him to come to my office and hope that he will show? Passive Students don’t seek out their teachers so we have to find them. I’ve tried to schedule appointments with Passive Students and been put off with comments about their “busy schedules” or have them miss repeatedly scheduled appointments. What do I do then? Should I care more—apparently—about the education of my students than they do themselves? Learning is an active process, isn’t it?

Many schools have instituted programs to assist Passive Students. For example, there are Alert systems that mandate or recommend that faculty trigger alerts for Passive Students. At some schools, those alerts trigger a support system designed to assist the Passive Student. Alerts notify other relevant professionals such as academic advisors and then faculty, advisors and other professional design a plan to help such students, utilizing campus services devised for such situations. At some schools, these alerts come with very specific demands of students, such as requiring them to attend study skills and take advantage of other campus resources.

How well do these systems motivate Passive Students? Are they too heavy-handed? Do such interventions impact either value or expectancy –the product of which equals motivation, according to Vroom’s motivation theory? (Value refers to the value of the material to the student, while expectancy refers to student expectation of being a successful learner of the material.)

Being rewarded as a teacher requires extending very different kinds of effort for Passive versus Excel Students, effort I am happy to exert with the hope that it will at least be eventually matched by my students. As a student, how much responsibility for your learning do you share with your teachers?


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Who is Responsible for Student Learning?:


It is very true that there are two distinguishable types of students and both the Passive and Excel students conform to their achieved status well. As a student, I feel that I have the right to expect my teacher to care about my learning, but on the other hand I have a bigger obligation to care about my own education myself. There is a huge responsibility for students to take part in their learning. Teachers are there to lead, but we as students must in turn follow.

I think your post is true on how teachers care about their students learning, but teachers shouldnt be the only ones who are worried about your learning students who plan on graduating and going to college should also be worried about their learning.

As teachers, it’s our obligation to teach and care for our students. On the other hand, it should be the obligation and responsibility of the students to take care of their studies. Hope students will understand that their teachers are doing everything to make them excel. I don’t believe that there are slow students only LAZY ones.

I agree that teachers do care about the students learning and it is their job to help the students learn. The students also need to make an effort to learn as well it is bothe the teachers and students job.

I am glad to help anyone who cares to ask. I do not, on the other hand, intend to try to force anyone to get their money's worth. I'll provide the access, experience, and time; the ball is your court!

I think your post is true and I agree that teachers do care about the students learning and it is their job to help the students learn.and off-course the students must also learn as well.

I agree with this post, because teachers should be caring how their students are doing, and teachers should help them out. Students should be asking more questions and think about graduation and moving on with life.

You cannot help a person who does not want help. With education most teachers want what is best for their students and are willing to do whatever it takes to see them succeed. Just as there are two sides to the group of students, there are also two sides to teachers. At first some teachers are willing to do whatever, but after a while some teachers decide not to. I do not agree with this choice because it does affect the student. If they see the teacher does not care, why should they? I think this applies to not only the class room but to school districts and boards. If no effort is put forth in front of the student whether it be about an assignment or dress code or school spirit, why should they be forced to take part?

I have always wondered how teachers help so many different types of students. I am probably considered an Excel student by most of my teachers and I am always amazed when students turn down the help of their teachers. I have considered becoming a teacher but I was caught up on how I would be able to relate to different kinds of students. It was nice to be able to read how you do it and the thoughts that go through your head.

I am a student that would be in the middle. I do not care if I have an A- in the class as long as it's not a C+. I do ask questions but i rarely have them. My brother, on the other hand, is a Excel Student. He's constantly worrying about having a 4.0 and obsesses over it and is currently having a problem with having an A- in a class. My friend is a Passive Student. She could care less if she passes a class and has even dropped out of school completely. Never asked any questions and never took the time of day to get helped. You are very correct that there are two groups that stand out.

the ownership of getting through college is on the student , we as student should want the best from ourselves. But it is helpful when you have a caring professor to guide you through the materials for the best grade effect

Today most kids don't want help from their teacher. They want to prove that they can achive the work without the instructors help. I agree that teachers are trying to help but it is the students who need to worry the most about how well they do in their classes.

The generation today has changed dramatically students seem to care less and less about education and other school activities. I believe the media has a big effect many students don't even like to participate in school spirit or pep rallys about the other half love it. I wish more teenages would realize how important education is.

I understand that as a teacher you want all your students to do well and know what they're doing since it can help them later in life. Sometimes I think that teachers try way to hard to engage passive students. Only so much learning can come from the teacher. It's up to the student to decide whether they want to learn or not. I know it may not be what the teacher wants but forcing a student to learn isn't the way to go about it.

To teach, is a teacher's responsibility, BUT to learn, is an student's responsibility.

Is responsibility of the students to take care of their studies.

The students must make an effort to learn.

If you really wish to facilitate students in their learning, then the best way to do this is to use online platforms like online forums,blogs and websites to help students in their academic issues.

good post.

It’s very excellent information and more real facts to provided that post.Thank you for sharing this information.

It is terribly true that there are 2 distinguishable forms of students and each the Passive and stand out students adapt to their achieved standing well. As a student, I feel that I actually have the proper to expect my teacher to worry regarding my learning, however on the opposite hand I actually have an even bigger obligation to worry regarding my very own education myself. there's a large responsibility for college kids to require half in their learning. lecturers are there to guide, however we have a tendency to as students should successively follow.

I perceive that as a coach you would like all of your students to try to to well and apprehend what they are doing since it will facilitate them later in life. generally i believe that lecturers strive thanks to arduous to interact passive students. solely most learning will come back from the teacher. It's up to the coed to come to a decision whether or not they wish to find out or not. i do know it's going to not be what the teacher needs however forcing a student to find out is not the thanks to set about it.

Great article, I think students should consider most of their studies by themselves but it would be best if a guide or a teacher will be there to help the students.

The pupil has the maximum critical element to play In schooling. The teacher would simplest be inclined to teach if the scholar is keen to listen. Although the teacher has added a lot to do in schooling most of it is associated with the efforts of college students.

It's magnificent information and all the more genuine realities to gave that post.Thank you to sharing this information.

It’s very excellent information

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Become a Fan

The Society Pages Community Blogs

Interested in Submitting a Guest Post?

If you're a sociology instructor or student and would like us to consider your guest post for everydaysociologyblog.com please .

Norton Sociology Books

The Real World

Learn More

Terrible Magnificent Sociology

Learn More

You May Ask Yourself

Learn More

Essentials of Sociology

Learn More

Introduction to Sociology

Learn More

The Art and Science of Social Research

Learn More

The Family

Learn More

The Everyday Sociology Reader

Learn More

Race in America

Learn More


Learn More

« Michel Foucault: Power, Discourse and 9/11 | Main | Driving, Social Norms, and Social Structure »